The House Committee on Elections voted in favor of an amended HB 351 Restore Confidence in Government, which could better be called the Voter Suppression Act of 2011. The Committee debated the bill, which would require all voters to present a government issued photo ID before casting their vote at the polling place, for almost two hours. Representative Jennifer Weiss (D-Wake) pointed out that documented occurrences of double voting – the prevention of which supporters claim justifies the bill – have been in the single digits in three out of the last four elections. In 2010, the State Board of Elections reports there were only 14 cases of double voting, but over 2,699,000 votes cast.
The supposed justification for the bill crumbled under committee scrutiny, but supporters still insisted that the bill was necessary. This argument is especially troubling since, in order to remedy 14 cases of double voting, supporters of the Voter Suppression Act are willing to see hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians denied their right to vote. The dubious nature of the argument is compounded when it is considered that those communities that will be most affected are also the communities that have historically faced barriers at the polls. The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 18-14 with Representatives Martha Alexander, Bryant, Cotham, Fisher, Floyd, Graham, Harrison, Martin, McLawhorn, Michaux, Mobley, Ross, Edith Warren, and Weiss voting against the proposal.