A prominent North Carolina Republican and former state Supreme Court justice said he changed his mind about voter ID laws after studying the history behind them.
Bob Orr wrote in an op-ed for The Charlotte Observer on Wednesday that he began opposing the measures after reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant, titled “Grant.”
Orr wrote that while voter ID laws used to seem like “a common sense, albeit small, way to combat potential voter fraud,” he now sides with critics who argue “it’s a voter suppression ploy by Republicans aimed primarily at black voters.”
The former justice said he and others who grew up in the South were taught in schools that the Reconstruction era was a time of “freed blacks … taking advantage of those poor white home folks below the Mason-Dixon line.” But he said he learned more about the history of the period by reading Chernow’s biography.
“Nobody told us of the extreme violence and intimidation aimed at those newly freed black slaves,” Orr wrote.
“Is it any wonder then that our fellow citizens of African-American heritage are particularly sensitive when it comes to voting issues?” Orr continued. “Is it any wonder that they are genuinely concerned that a voter ID requirement is just one more in a long line of measures to limit their right to vote?”
“Maybe a photo voter ID isn’t all that bad, but I’m willing to say today after reading Chernow’s ‘Grant’: Let’s put this proposal on the shelf as simply the right thing to do,” he concluded.
North Carolina state Republicans introduced a proposed constitutional amendment last week to require photo ID for all residents voting in person, according to WRAL.
A state audit after the 2016 election found only one instance of voter fraud that could have been prevented with the use of an ID, out of the 4.8 million votes cast. The woman in the case was not charged with a crime, WRAL reported.