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ELECTION DAY

Voter ID: Fayetteville voters mostly shrug off requirement 

‘ … I don’t see an issue. I really don’t’

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On Fayetteville’s first primary election day under a new statewide voter ID requirement, voters at polling places largely shrugged off the new law.

One voter, 62-year-old Kim Lofton, presented his driver’s license at Reid Ross Classical School on Tuesday before casting his ballot. He described the process as “smooth” and said he wasn’t troubled one iota about being asked for his identification.

Lofton, who’s retired, said he regularly used a photo ID during his military career, and added, “You still have to show ID” in many other instances.

“There’s been a lot said about (the new law),” he said. “Personally, I don’t see an issue. I really don’t. Because anyone could walk in and say, ‘I’m this person.’”

Still, when it comes to the voter ID requirement, he said he believes it's crucial to ensure those without IDs have an easy way to obtain them.

“That was the only thing,” he said, “just make sure we can get these people to a facility to get an ID if that’s the requirement.” 

The voter ID requirement — the necessity of showing photo identification before casting ballots — is new this year, beginning with elections held in August. After legal wrangling and years of debate over the necessity and efficacy of presenting identification at the polls, the N.C. Supreme Court, in April, tossed out previous rulings declaring a photo identification  measure as illegal. 

North Carolina previously passed voter ID laws in 2013 and 2018. A federal court ruling nullified the first instance, while the N.C. Supreme Court struck down the second. Then, in late April, a new Republican-majority court turned the table on the question that had seemingly been settled just a few months before, in December.

Now it's law, and the N.C. State Board of Elections has laid out the acceptable forms of ID and how voters can obtain free IDs from their county boards of election. Voters are also allowed to vote without a photo ID based on exceptions and the completion of a new ID Exception form. But it’s still not without controversy: about 7% of registered voters lack acceptable ID, according to Durham’s nonprofit Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a group that works to provide legal representation within communities of color in the South.

Critics of the requirement continue to maintain that voter ID laws are racially biased and designed to make it more difficult for some marginalized populations to vote. In 2016, a previous iteration of the North Carolina voter ID law was struck down by a federal appeals court, with the judges writing that the provisions targeted Black voters "with almost surgical precision."

On Tuesday, though, most voters with whom CityView spoke were agreeable to presenting ID before filling out a ballot.

“I love it,” said Brenda Tinney, who voted at Van Story Hills Elementary School. “I think you need to know who everybody is.”

Another Van Story voter, Nate Dine, said he believes the measure will improve the voting process in North Carolina.

“I think the integrity of the election is better with requiring an ID,” he said.

Maria Finn, a District 2 voter, also likes the law because she feels that it safeguards the integrity of elections. (Studies have indicated that voter ID laws don't have any impact on voter fraud — which itself is exceedingly rare.)

“But I don't see any problem,” she said. “We have to have an ID to buy a beer, right? To go travel, to go do anything. Voting is the most sacred. … It's supposed to mean something. It's supposed to mean that people have the power. And when people are disillusioned and they don’t think their vote is going to count, they're not going to show up.” 

‘... Step in the right direction’

Candidates working the polls on Tuesday were inclined to agree. Fayetteville City Councilman Johnny Dawkins called the new law “a step in the right direction.”

He added, though: “There's still a lot of things that we need to do to work on our election. We've got to do something about voter apathy.” 

“I don't think it's causing any issues, because it's very easy to get an ID these days,” City Council candidate Justin Herbe said, while another candidate, Lynne Green, told CityView, “I think we've been too long dilly-dallying with it.”

Natalie Sorton, a campaign volunteer for incumbent mayoral candidate Mitch Colvin, said for the most part, the people he observed coming to vote seemed to be aware of the new law.

“Everyone is making sure that they (voters) have their ID on them,” she said. “We had a few people run back to their vehicles to get their IDs.”

‘ … Just one more thing’

There were detractors — among them Karen Mantzouris, who, voting at Glendale Acres Elementary School, said, “I’m not crazy about it.”

“I don't think it's necessary for people to have to bring in their ID,” she said, speaking about the difficulty it presents for those without driver’s licenses. “It's just one more thing that they have to do to vote.” 

But Carrie Jackson, who was campaigning and assisting voters outside a District 2 precinct, echoed the sentiments of those who support the law.

“My thought is that the majority of any service that you have to do, whether it's government services, aid, anything, you have to have official identification for it,” she said. “Social Services, you have to have an official ID. There are a lot of food pantries that require your actual ID card, like an official ID card. There's a lot of food pantries, there's a lot of homeless shelters. And then if you're homeless, you can actually get a letter that says that you're homeless, take that to the DMV and the ID card is no cost. So it's just a matter of if you could set up transportation.”

She agreed that avenues are needed to help those without a photo ID to easily obtain one but added it’s rare for most potential voters not to already have that kind of identification. 

“I think that there should be other avenues to help people that are not mobile, for example, like senior citizens, to make sure that they have their ID," she said. "But most of them, they've had an ID for 80 years anyway. So it's very rare for you to find somebody nowadays that does not have an ID card because you need it in order to do something.”

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voter ID, elections, fayetteville, Cumberland county

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