Restore confidence in government

N.C. Rep. Ric Killian
Special for South Charlotte Weekly

State Rep. Ric Killian, R-District 105, is chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation committee and Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs committee in the N.C. House. He also is vice-chairman of the Appropriations committee, and a member of the committees on Education, Elections, Judiciary, Judiciary Subcommittee A, Redistricting and Transportation. He will write occasional columns for South Charlotte Weekly, keeping citizens updated on ongoing issues during the legislative session. District 105 is generally the area between Pineville and Providence Road south of Highway 51.

An April 2010 Pew poll indicates public trust in government has hit a new low. So, with public confidence in government at historically new low levels, the challenge for leaders is to identify solutions that will begin the process of restoring trust and confidence in government.

This phenomenon is not a partisan issue, as neither party has a monopoly on integrity. Governing begins with elections, so that is where reform must begin.

Registering to vote necessitates proving citizenship, and voting requires proving identity. The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) regulates much of the registration process, but doesn’t directly address voter identification. This leaves an opportunity, or even a responsibility for the state.

Currently, 27 states require voter identification, and eight of those states require photo identification. North Carolina requires a voter to state their name and sign a piece of paper, but doesn’t require the voter to prove their identity.

Proponents of voter identification argue the current system fails to sufficiently prove identity, is subject to fraud and leaves the voter uncertain of the certainty of their vote.Restoring confidence begins here. Voters want to know their vote is being cast and counted, and no one else is representing them. Voters routinely offer identification when voting, but elections officials must reject the offer, leaving the voters curiously wondering if they will be credited for the vote they cast.

Opponents of voter identification argue this is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. However, there are plenty of instances of voter fraud in North Carolina.

In the Scotland Neck mayor’s race in both 2007 and 2009 there were reported instances of ineligible voters and voting twice. In the 2008 general election the State Board of Elections referred 261 cases to local district attorney offices. Most recently, four “deceased” persons voted in a Washington County sheriff’s race, causing the election to be repeated.

Unfortunately, and all too common, the Board of Elections simply does not conduct investigations. Clearly there is plenty of evidence to substantiate that voter fraud exists. More importantly, there’s a difference between a problem not existing and a problem being ignored.

North Carolina should require voters show photo identification. Additionally, there must be an opportunity for those without photo identification to vote on a provisional ballot. Although the state already provides identification cards to many elderly and disabled citizens, those voters who are unable to afford the fee for a government provided photo identification should be provided one at no cost. This will ensure the requirement is not viewed as a poll tax or any other attempt to discourage voting.

It is time for North Carolina to begin the long overdue process of restoring confidence in government, and voter identification is the place to start. Eliminating the opportunity for a few overzealous campaign workers or political operatives to abuse the system, while simultaneously giving all other voters the confidence to know their vote counts, will substantially increase the validity of our elections and give all voters a restored sense of confidence in government.

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