State finalizing new voter ID requirements
By Jon Hawley
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Pasquotank County election officials hosted seminars on North Carolina’s new voter identification requirements on Monday — requirements they plan to implement in less than a year.
State Board of Elections staffer Terry Harris led each seminar, outlining the state’s new voter ID law and taking questions on it. One seminar was held College of The Albemarle in the afternoon; a second was held at Elizabeth City State University in the evening.
In last year’s spring elections, North Carolinians voted to amend the state Constitution to require a photo ID to vote. Over Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, lawmakers enacted legislation to implement the amendment. Due to special congressional elections this year, lawmakers and Cooper also passed followup legislation this year to delay photo ID requirements until the 2020 elections.
On Monday, Harris explained the state elections board is finalizing the rules for photo ID, and what “reasonable impediments” will allow voters to vote without showing acceptable ID.
A North Carolina driver’s license, a Division of Motor Vehicles card, and passports are accepted and may even be expired for up to a year, she said. Military service member and veteran IDs will also be accepted regardless of expiration, she said.
Election officials will also accept ID cards of federally-recognized Indian tribes, and will accept photo IDs of state-recognized tribes if those cards are approved in advance, she said.
Student photo IDs will be accepted if the state board has approved those students’ colleges or universities. State and local government employees’ IDs may also be used, if the state board approves.
A state elections board list from March shows that Elizabeth City State University’ student and employee IDs are valid, as are the city of Elizabeth City’s employee IDs. College of The Albemarle and Pasquotank County IDs are not listed.
Other states’ IDs, such as a driver’s license of someone who moved to North Carolina, may also be used, provided the IDs are expired by no more than 90 days, she said.
For voters over 65, any acceptable photo ID they already have is good for life — provided it wasn’t expired when they turned 65, Harris said. That’s helpful for an elderly person who doesn’t drive any more and has no reason to renew their driver’s license, she said.
Photo ID requirements apply not only to in-person voting, but mail-in voters as well. Harris said they have to send in a photocopy of an acceptable ID with their ballot.
In a change from North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law — which courts overturned — Harris said the DMV will no longer provide free photo ID cards to voters who need them. Local boards of elections are responsible for issuing those cards now.
Voters may request the IDs at any time, but local election boards do not have to produce them the same day, Harris said. That’s in case many voters request photo IDs back-to-back; the IDs can instead be mailed out, she said.
If voters do not have acceptable photo ID, they will still be allowed to vote provisionally based on signing an affidavit claiming a “reasonable impediment” to possessing ID, Harris said.
No election official should deny a voter a ballot; nor should they contest whether a voter’s impediment is valid. The state is taking that approach so as to avoid confrontations at the polls, Harris explained.
An example of a reasonable impediment would be if a voter simply forgot an acceptable ID. Those voters may return to the polls before canvassing — the official count of ballots made days after election day — with the ID to get their ballot counted.
Other reasonable impediments may include: lack of transportation, stolen or lost IDs, disability or illness, lack of supporting documents to get an ID, and religious objections to being photographed. If someone lost their belongings in a federally- or state-declared disaster, people may also cite that as a reasonable impediment.
A voter could challenge someone’s claim of a reasonable impediment, but it’s unlikely other voters would hear or see someone claiming an impediment, Harris added.
Though state and local officials are planning for voter ID, Harris also acknowledged North Carolina’s new voter ID law is facing legal challenges that could overturn it.
A Wake County judge has ruled that, due to gerrymandering of lawmaker districts, the General Assembly lacked legitimacy to put the constitutional amendment before voters, but an appeals court set aside that ruling. A challenge to the voter ID implementation law remains in court but didn’t halt the law going into effect, according to published reports.