RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - North Carolina lawmakers are poised to adopt one of the nation's strictest voter identification requirements, part of a sweeping elections bill that has outraged Democrats and voting rights activists.
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The bill, adopted by the state Senate Wednesday would also reduce early voting by a week and eliminate same-day voter registration.
Republican leaders, who in 2010 took control of the state legislature for the first time in more than a hundred years, tacked dozens of pages of election rules to a bill requiring identification at the polls that had already passed the House of Representatives.
The bill must now pass a House vote before being sent to the Governor for a signature. House Speaker Thom Tillis has indicated his chamber would pass the bill before the end of the week. Governor Pat McCrory, a moderate Republican, declined to comment on the bill through a spokesperson on Wednesday.
If passed, the law will no longer be subject to pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act, following a recent Supreme Court ruling.
The new bill also removed college IDs as a valid form of identification at the polls, and eliminates a program that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register, both measures that Democrats claim are meant to lessen the political clout of younger voters who tend to favor their party.
"This is a naked attempt to predetermine election outcomes by making it harder for certain people to vote: poor people, people of color, elderly people and young people," Allison Riggs, a lawyer specializing on voting rights with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told a Senate committee.
But supporters say the measures are meant to eliminate the potential for voter fraud and make elections more standardized across the state.
"This re-establishes a level of confidence in the electoral process and also our state government," State Senator Bob Rucho, a Republican. "That's something we should all be striving for."
Ten states have already enacted laws that require photo identification to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and North Carolina is among a dozen states that have considered or adopted new laws this year.
The bill included a series of other measures, such as moving the state's presidential primary to before March 15, and loosening campaign contribution limits.
Critics said the combination of measures would cause long lines as seen in recent Florida elections.
Senator Josh Stein, a Democrat, said the bill could affect some 300,000 registered voters who state officials estimated currently lack photo identification, calling it "a requirement the necessity of which is nonexistent when you have two instances of in-person voter fraud out of 30 million votes cast."
The law would go into effect in 2016, with a campaign during the 2014 elections to educate voters on the new policies.
(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Shumaker)
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