01/18/12 — GOP chief seeks voter ID query if county surveys

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GOP chief seeks voter ID query if county surveys

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 18, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County taxpayer dollars could be put to better use than paying for a survey of local residents, but if county commissioners decide to proceed with a survey, they should ask residents how they feel about voter identification, Wayne County Republican Party Chairman Bob Jackson said.

And then, they should consider asking permission to set up their own system for requiring identification at polling places, Jackson said.

The GOP chairman, speaking Tuesday morning during the public comments section of the commissioners' meeting, said the state House and Senate passed the Voter ID Bill, which would require people to provide a valid photographic identification before voting. The bill was vetoed by the governor.

However, Jackson said it was his understanding that commissioners can petition the legislature for the authority to start that process and that Wayne County can require residents to provide voter identification to cast their ballots.

"Several boards of county commissioners have passed such resolutions and sent them to the General Assembly," Don Wright, counsel for the State Board of Elections, said in a telephone interview. "The State Board of Elections takes no position on the resolutions because it is a matter for the General Assembly."

NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, reports that commissioners in Craven, Davidson, Gaston, Lincoln and Rowan counties have passed such resolutions.

State lawmakers would have to pass a "local bill" to grant that power to those counties. Local bills usually deal with issues specific to a county and are exempt from a governor's veto.

In a Nov. 23 advisory letter sent to Gov. Bev Perdue's office, Grayson Kelley, the state's chief deputy Attorney General warned that such a move could be a concern not only because of issues of representation and race, but also a problem because it would not be a universal requirement across the state, which, he said, would not be fair to voters. Therefore, he added, the measure would likely not hold up in court.

Providing identification is common practice in everyday life, Jackson told commissioners.

He also pointed out that there have been proven instances of voter fraud around the country.

He pointed to a case in another state where people went into polling places, provided the names and addresses of people who had been dead for years and were allowed to vote, he said.

"I am not suggesting that is happening in North Carolina," he said. "But why is voting not important enough to make sure that we get it right?"

Stephanie Kornegay, chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party, disagreed.

"As far as the Voter ID Bill, to my knowledge there has never been any problems with the voting system in Wayne County or North Carolina, so I don't see it being necessary of going through anymore restrictions on having people vote," she said. "Mr. (Commissioner Ray) Mayo has encouraged people to go out and register.

"I would also encourage people to go out and register, but I don't think that it is necessary that we have voter ID."

Jackson opened his comments by noting that two weeks ago during a presentation, commissioners were told the survey would probably cost between $10,000 and $12,000.

Commissioners have not approved doing a survey, but are in the process of compiling a list of possible questions. While several board members have indicated they favor a survey, they have not said when or if they would vote to conduct one.

"As most of us probably know, those projects sometimes tend to expand and cost twice as much or several times what the original estimations are," Jackson said. "It would be my recommendation that we consider seriously the need for this survey.

"I believe also there was a suggestion that you might have a get-together to decide, I don't want to offend anybody, a wish list if you will, as to what may be contained in that survey. My thinking would be that if you need to think about what your needs are, you probably don't need it."

Wayne County should know what the people want without a survey, he said.

"If I could encourage you to be selective on how we spend the monies that belong to the taxpayers of Wayne County," Jackson said. "If in fact you do decide that this survey is necessary, I would certainly recommend that, and it might sound like I am going back on what I just said.

"But I am saying that if you are going to do it anyway then I believe that if you had as part of that survey what the people of Wayne County think about voter ID."