RALEIGH, N.C. -- Embarrassed by the election fraud investigation making national news, the North Carolina state House added to its voter ID bill a goal for people who request absentee ballots to include some form of identification.
"This situation we're all reading about is an embarrassment and an impediment to the integrity of our entire election system," said Rep. David Lewis, the Harnett County Republican shepherding the voter ID bill through the House. The bill is "an important first step" that provides for an improved system of absentee voting, he said.
The State Board of Elections would be responsible for writing the rule for absentee ballot IDs under the provision added to the bill Wednesday.
An investigation into election fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties that centered on absentee mail-in ballots has delayed the certification of Republican Mark Harris' election in the 9th Congressional District.
House Republicans, as recently as this summer, had rejected proposals to require IDs from people who vote by mail.
The sections on absentee IDs are part of a larger bill focused on requiring people who vote in person to show photo identification. The House passed it 67-40, largely along party lines. Two Democrats, Duane Hall and Ken Goodman, voted for it and Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan voted against it.
Sponsored Video Stories from LifeZette
The bill now goes back to the Senate, which passed its own version last week.
Republicans have wanted voter ID for years. House Speaker Tim Moore, in rare comments during the floor debate, said he'd been working on voter ID since 2003. The state passed a voter ID bill in 2013 that was thrown out by federal judges in 2016. This year, Republicans put voter ID on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. It passed with about 55 percent of the vote.
Rep. Darren Jackson, the House Democratic leader, said Republicans focused on creating obstacles to in-person voting, where documented fraud is rare, while ignoring glaring problems with absentee voting.
"Now, we have a congressional race tainted because of that," said Jackson. "I'm sure it is embarrassing to the majority party that an election may have been stolen by their operatives."