Sep 23, 2015–RALEIGH–North Carolina’s voter ID law took another surprising turn tonight as Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan denied the motion, brought by attorneys representing the state, to throw out the lawsuit against NC voter ID, despite last June’s bi-partisan passage of HB 836, a law that weakened voter ID so effectively that critics had predicted the court would dismiss the charges.
“This shows once again why it was a bad idea to rush through any election law legislation,” said Jay DeLancy, Director of the Voter Integrity Project. “Instead of waiting for the courts to rule, Rep Lewis and Sen Rucho used the urgency of the (then) upcoming state court hearing to panic their caucus into unconditional surrender.”[Clarification: The ruling by Judge Morgan denied the State’s motion to dismiss the trial, because the plaintiff argued that any requirement for voters to prove their identity is an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote (as spelled out in Article VI of the NC Constitution). The trial will be delayed until after the March 2016 primary, when the voter ID law will be in full effect.]
The bill that weakened NC’s voter ID law (passed by a combined 150-4 margin) was rushed through by Rep Lewis and Sen Rucho, who hastily described the bill (HB 836) to their respective caucuses, without giving them a chance to read it, on a Thursday morning, when lawmakers are itching to dismiss for the week and make (for some) a five-hour drive back to their homes.
“No doubt the state was going to get spanked in state court after the plaintiffs discovered that DMV employees were regularly breaking the law by not issuing the free voter ID cards,” he said, “but my sources tell me that Sen Rucho came unhinged after his own mother was turned away by the nice people at DMV.”
Instead of taking their lumps in court, multiple sources confirmed that Rep Lewis briefed the major provisions of a HB 836 in the house caucus, obtaining their near unanimous support, without giving them time to read the bill.
“At that eleventh hour,” one legislator told VIP, “we just had to rely on Representative Lewis for what was in the bill. After all, nobody in the entire caucus had worked harder on election law than he did.”
Rep David Lewis, Chairman of the House committee on elections and election law, is a seven-term member from Dunn. His legislative webpage says he is a farm equipment dealer and a farmer.
“Given his deep agri-business ties,” said DeLancy, “we shouldn’t have been surprised when he failed to tell his caucus that his bill extended the expired driver licenses window from 90 days to four years. As a result of his action, somewhere between 100,000 and 125,000 non-US citizens will suddenly have a legal voter ID in North Carolina.”
According to news reports in early 2005, the DMV estimated that each year, they issued between 75,000 and 100,000 licenses to applicants who could not provide a Social Security card and instead used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. Under the old 90-day expiration limit, those licenses had expired enough long ago, that none could be used as voter ID. HB 836 created the new vulnerability.
“The non-citizen empowerment provision was just one of the many failings in that tragic bill [heavily documented here],” DeLancy said, “and tonight’s court ruling suggests that 836 may have been a complete waste of time.”
Story updated and clarified to include the actual ruling issued by Judge Morgan.