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Timing of Voter ID Requirements Questioned

February 17, 2012

GASTONIA, N. C. – Proposals are popping up around the state to require voters to bring a state-issued form of identification when they go to the polls in this presidential election year. The Gaston County Commission recently passed a resolution to request the state legislature to grant it authority to require a voter ID in local elections.

Gastonia resident Anna Young says bringing identification to the polls may sound easy to many voters, but it presents a roadblock to those who don't have a current form of ID - such as people with disabilities, seniors, and low-income voters.

"They're going to take that one thing that the average poor person has to look forward to. That's not fair."

Proponents say voter identification requirements prevent fraud, while opponents point out that the fraud potentially being prevented is rare. Investigations by the State Board of Elections found only five votes per million cast in North Carolina from 2004 to 2010 involved fraud that a voter identification requirement could have stopped.

Keith Rivers lives in Pasquotank County, where they are considering a voter ID requirement. He questions the motivations of those who are pushing for the change.

"One is definitely voter suppression. They do not want a turnout at the voting polls, like what happened in 2008. And then, the second thing is confusion."

Changing the law in a key voting year adds a layer of uncertainty for older residents and the poor, adds Rivers. He believes it essentially acts as a deterrent for those who want to vote.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NC