North Carolina Governor Will Sign Voter ID Bill He Hasn't Read Yet

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 29 2013 1:32 PM

North Carolina Governor Will Sign Voter ID Bill He Hasn't Read Yet

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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory apparently learned a thing or two about speed from Richard Petty when McCrory was mayor of Charlotte.

Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images for NASCAR

Anyone who's covered or followed politics since the debate over the 2009 stimulus package remembers this killer phrase: "They passed a bill they hadn't even read." Republicans claimed that Democrats were addicted to rushing monster bills through Congress but had no idea what was in them. Before cap and trade passed the House, future Speaker John Boehner berated the majority for nearly an hour, reading silly-sounding sections of the bill, expressing certitude that members didn't know what was in the thing.

All of that leads to an awfully depressing North Carolina headline: "McCrory has not read voting bill, but will sign it." Gov. Pat McCrory, the first Republican executive to enjoy a GOP majority in the state legislature since Reconstruction, admitted that he did not know every provision of the bill.

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When The Associated Press asked the GOP governor how three particular provisions of the bill would help prevent voter fraud, he instead began talking about other sections of the legislation.
    
When pressed specifically about a provision ending a popular high school civics program that encourages students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays, McCrory replied he had not seen that part of the bill.

I only dipped my toe in North Carolina last week, but it was easy to find people in both parties marveling at how fast bills were being rushed through. The omnibus voter ID bill was announced Monday afternoon, and the text dropped online in the witching hour of Tuesday morning. Public comment on the bill started at 2 p.m. Tuesday and ended at 3:30 p.m. The bill passed two days later. A Senate staffer confided to me that the Barry Allen-speed movement of the bill was pretty typical.

At the national level, this sort of legislating backfires no matter what's in the bill. That's one reason you hear GOP activists and House members claim that the Senate's immigration bill was "rushed"—the bill that took six months of negotiating! After all, the amendment that made the bill palatable to conservatives was tossed in a few days before the vote. Can in backfire in North Carolina? In polling, it already has, but more than that it's put a lie to the idea that only fiendish Pelosi Democrats adapt to power by ramming through their priorities by any means necessary.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.