Voter assistance: Group helps citizens with ID paperwork
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Getting more people to exercise their right to vote is the aim of a national organization that opened a chapter in Greenville last week.
Spread The Vote launched a local chapter in North Carolina on Tuesday in conjunction with its new initiative, Project ID.
The national nonprofit organization is committed to helping people get government-issued IDs then educating them on the voting process, according to a news release.
Through the Project ID initiative, Spread The Vote will help anyone in the Greenville area get an ID free of charge, the news release said.
Project ID volunteers will help individuals gather the paperwork needed to apply for a state-issued ID, including birth certificates and Social Security cards, according to organizers. The initiative also will help people cover the fees associated with gathering those documents. That way, would-be voters can walk into the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles with everything they need to secure an ID.
Ashlei Blue, state director of Spread the Vote, said the organization is pushing for citizens to get state-issued IDs from the DMV, whether it be a photo ID card or a driver’s license.
Blue said such identification provides benefits beyond the voting booth.
“Our goal is to make sure that folks that need IDs have them for everyday needs they may have in their lives,” Blue said. Having an ID can then change people’s’ lives, allowing them to vote, apply for jobs, get housing, receive medical care and much more, she said.
Tuesday’s launch focused on introducing the initiative to the community, as well as recruiting volunteers who are interested in joining the organization. It comes on the heels of Spread The Vote’s Greensboro and Goldsboro chapter launches in North Carolina, and will be followed by more in the coming months, organizers said.
It is all part of the group’s seven-state expansion to combat tough voter ID laws across the country. There are 35 states that have voter ID laws, including North Carolina, and as of the last presidential election there were 21 million eligible voters nationwide without an ID, according to the news release.
In North Carolina, a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show a valid photo ID at the voting booth passed last year. Some voting rights advocates have expressed fear that such a requirement could result in lower voter turnout.
Greenville resident Carol Williams, who attended Tuesday’s Project ID launch, said that despite the challenges of the new amendment, everybody should vote.
“I think it’s really important that all people vote and a lot of people have the opportunity to vote,” Williams said. “Without that, we don’t have a republic. This is what North Carolina needs. Everybody should vote.”
Blue said state law mandates that county board of elections issue free voter photo identification cards to registered voters upon request, she said. But she expressed concern election boards may not have the resources to issue so many IDs, and said getting a DMV-issued ID is an easy solution that covers the bases.
“Effective for this year’s election cycle, folks will need a photo ID in order to cast their ballots,” Blue said. “Preferably, DMV-issued, that’s the one-stop catch-all card that you will need.”
Blue noted that portions of the state ID law remain in limbo.
“The big piece right now is how students will be affected,” she said. “Essentially what’s happening now is each university or community college will have to submit a document to the board of elections that talks about what information is on their student ID. The board will confirm whether that institution’s ID will be sufficient. We are following up with those schools to make sure they get that correspondence from the state board of elections and that they follow up.”
For now, helping voters secure valid IDs is the focus, Blue said.
“Our priority is getting folks that state-issued ID, even for students, because that’s going to be the one-stop shop that kind of trumps everything. The DMV issued card is a foolproof way to make sure you can cast your ballot,” Blue said.
To learn more about Spread the Vote, visit spreadthevote.org
Information from: The Daily Reflector, http://www.reflector.com