- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Senate leader Phil Berger’s campaign on Wednesday changed a television commercial highlighting his role in passing a photo identification requirement to vote in North Carolina after it became the subject of an elections complaint.

The North Carolina NAACP asked the State Board of Elections this week to investigate the ad, which the civil rights group alleges was unlawful because it gave misleading information to potential voters that may discourage them from casting ballots this fall.

The ad, running on Triad-area television stations serving Berger’s Rockingham and Guilford county district, said “now, thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a photo ID to vote.” But that requirement doesn’t take effect until 2016. This year, poll workers are asking voters whether they have a photo ID and giving them information about how to obtain one if they don’t.

Campaign spokesman Ray Martin called the complaint groundless and the original ad accurate, but told a board official in a letter it would modify the commercial to “remove any question, even questions clearly motivated by partisan animus, regarding the purpose of the ad.”

The new ad, posted on Berger’s website, replaces a portion of the commercial’s narration to say “in 2016, thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a photo ID.” The ad will be updated on TV, too, according to Martin.

The state NAACP had no response to Berger’s modification as of late Wednesday. The group and its president, the Rev. William Barber, have been at odds with Berger, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory over the GOP agenda making its way through state government.

Berger’s committee asked the state elections board to dismiss the complaint by the NAACP, which cited a low-grade felony if someone uses mass communication that intimidates or discourages potential voters from going to the polls. The NAACP wanted the original ad taken down and the Guilford County district attorney to prosecute Berger and potentially others.

State board spokesman Josh Lawson said the panel’s review would “continue to resolution, as required by statute.”

Berger, who faces Democrat William Osborne in November, used the ad controversy Wednesday as a fundraising tool on social media and at his campaign web address, where the updated ad was posted.

“Watch the TV spot that Rev. Barber and President Obama don’t want you to see,” the page read while seeking donations to keep it on the air. Obama was identified in the commercial. The U.S. government sued last year to block the voter ID law from taking effect. The lawsuit and two others are pending.

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