North Carolina’s less-than-truthful spin on voter suppression

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012.
Chris Keane/Reuters

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has drawn criticism from both lawmakers and civil rights activists for signing new sweeping voting restrictions into law that could disproportionately affect minority voters. The state’s NAACP chapter president called the controversial law a “crime against democracy.” And even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a jab at the restrictions, calling the law a compilation of the “greatest hits of voter suppression.”

McCrory says the criticisms from the left are mere “scare tactics” to discredit what he calls efforts to “protect” voters, but the Republican governor is using some less accurate justifications in his defense.

In an interview with WBUR’s Here and Now program Tuesday, McCrory justified the voter ID provision of the new sweeping law on more than one occasion by arguing that 34 other states have comparable legislation.

“Thirty-four states currently require some sort of identification, and so we are doing what the majority of states are doing right now throughout the United States of America,” he said.

While there are more than 30 states that have some type of identification requirement, only a handful have the “strict photo ID requirement” that McCrory signed into law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than half of the states that do have ID requirements in one form or another make allowances for those without photo ID, including what’s often known as a “popeye affidavit” that allows a voter to cast his or her ballot after signing a document affirming his or her identity.

Polling conducted by SurveyUSA in April found that while 75% of voters initially supported the voter ID requirement, nearly just as many support giving creating a “popeye affidavit” like option that McCrory’s law lacks.

When asked to respond to the fact that the law appears to disproportionately impact Democratic voters, he simply denied that it does.

“There are absolutely no statistics that back that up. What you should be asking is, ‘Why would people be against having a basic photo ID?’” he said. Unfortunately for McCrory, there are statistics to “back that up.” An analysis from Democracy NC using data collected from the State Board of Elections found that Democrats make up 55% of the 318,000 registered voters in the state who lack NC photo ID, while Republicans make up only 21% (the remainder are unaffiliated).

And though there’s no proof of widespread voter fraud in the state, McCrory argued that just because there’s no proof doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

“The fact of the matter of is we aren’t looking for voter fraud. We never really have,” he said. “If we’re naïve enough to think there’s not voter fraud in the 10th largest state in the United States of America, then I think we’ve had our head in the sand, especially when you have tens of millions of dollars being spent on gubernatorial and presidential elections in our state.”

According to WNCN, the State Board of Elections passed along just 121 alleged cases of voter fraud to the appropriate district attorney’s office out of the nearly 7 million votes cast in the 2012. If every one of those allegations turned out to be true, then 0.00174% of all ballots cast were fraudulent, or one in every 57,000.

Pointing again to the less than accurate claim that 34 states have a comparable ID law, McCrory added “I’m not sure where this national media is saying that we have the most restrictive laws.”

Perhaps McCrory really doesn’t understand this one, but just for the sake of clarity: the reason the law has earned that title is not just because of its strict photo ID provision, or just because of the cuts to early voting, or even just the end of pre-registration for students in their later teens, but instead because it has all of those suppressive measures rolled into one.

McCrory’s defense comes as polls released Wednesday show his approval rating has dropped to new lows.

A new poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling conducted before McCrory signed the laws shows his approval rating dipping down to the 30’s for the first time ever, with only 39% of N.C. voters approving of his job performance, compared to 51% who disapprove.

North Carolina's less-than-truthful spin on voter suppression