US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Has North Carolina's voter ID law gone too far?

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

In our July issue, we explored the wave of voter ID laws that are sweeping the nation—and how this legislation disproportionately affects the poor and people of color. Around the same time our article ran, the Supreme Court voted to strip away parts of the Voting Rights Act.

Since then, North Carolina has been making headlines with its extremely restrictive voter ID legislation that was signed into law on Monday, to go into effect in 2016. Under the new provisions, voters must present a government-issued photo ID. The law discontinues same-day voter registration, shortens early voting, and ended a program aimed at registering teenagers who will be 18 by election day.

North Carolinians reflect the general divide on the issue: One side says that voter identification measures are necessary to protect against fraud.  The other argues that the laws are intended to make it hard for certain people to vote, such as the elderly, working poor, and students.

For North Carolina senator Kay Hagan, the law has gone too far. Yesterday, she urged the Justice Department to review the bill, saying that the law will restrict certain citizings from exercising their right to vote. The department had already announced that it would take action in light of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.

After all the work that has been done in our nation to expand voting rights to citizens, it is most unfortunate to see people denied the opportunity to participate in government—a basic right. In our U.S. Catholic article, Glenmary Father Les Schmidt said, “From the point of view of Catholic social teaching, there is an obligation that every person should vote. This is not a political football; it’s human rights. This is a human justice issue.”  

Related: U.S. bishops (finally) take a stand in favor of voting rights

A closer look at the Voting Rights Act

Image: Flickr photo cc by Joe Shlabotnik