by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
When the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on our state’s voter ID law on April 28th, the justices only had to answer one narrow question: “[Does the voter ID law] violate the meaningful protections set forth in Article I, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution?”
The court found that it does not.
The state high court admonished a lower court for “flipping of the burden of proof and the failure to provide the presumption of legislative good faith.”
Justice Phil Berger Jr., who wrote the majority opinion, noted that the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made a similar finding when it overturned a lower court ruling against voter ID.
Most remarkably, the Fourth Circuit concluded that “the district court improperly reversed the burden of proof and disregarded the presumption of legislative good faith,” and that when the correct legal principles were applied to the plaintiffs’ arguments, “the remaining evidence in the record fails to meet the Challengers’ burden.”
The legal battle over voter ID is largely behind us. A case over the voter ID amendment (rather than the law that implemented it) is still unresolved as it slowly works its way back to the State Supreme Court after its decision last year, but it will likely not be a long-term impediment. The State Board of Elections is already preparing to implement voter ID for this year’s municipal elections.
As voter ID becomes part of our voting procedures, let’s remember why it is good policy for election security.
A 2014 study in the American Economist noted the difficulty in stopping, or even discovering the existence of, election fraud:
The problem is that voter fraud is usually difficult to detect without costly monitoring and investigation costs, especially in light of mail-in votes and failure to require picture IDs. Cleary, voter fraud is real and can affect elections
That finding fits with North Carolina’s experience of election fraud being underreported and underinvestigated. Voter ID is a relatively inexpensive way to address one form of election fraud (voter impersonation).
Claims that voter ID suppresses turnout have also been overhyped. A study of ten years’ worth of data published in 2021 found that voter ID laws “have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.”
There are a host of situations in our lives that require presenting an ID, from boarding an airplane to buying beer to reentering the country. Requiring an ID to vote is not an undue burden.
Those reasons are why a majority of North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment for our state to join the thirty-five states already require some form of voter ID.