N.C. should be promoting voter ID chances


Sunday, June 23, 2019

We’re glad to see that the State Board of Elections is working with counties to hold special seminars on the new voter ID requirements. However, we think the state should be even more aggressively promoting the upcoming changes and using all forms of media and other public announcements to do it.

This is a fundamental change in state law — the basis of how the public selects its leaders and supports policies, spending of public monies and other actions affecting millions of lives. It’s incumbent on state leaders to ensure North Carolina citizens understand what they must do now if they are going to be allowed to vote legally in elections beginning next year.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much in the way of aggressive promotion for the new voter ID requirements from officials, and many citizens could simply overlook the new stipulations until it’s too late.

The elections next year — 2020 — will be the first in North Carolina requiring voter ID with photographic identification. And with what is expected to be a pivotal national election — and important state elections, too — with large turnouts, voters need assurances that they are prepared to lawfully cast a ballot and have it counted.

For many voters, they may need help from family, friends or others to plan what actions they must take to satisfy the new voting requirements.

The state board has already conducted about 50 voter ID education seminars across the state as a result of the new law created by the state constitutional amendment passed by voters last year to require photo ID for voting. Another 150 or so seminars are scheduled before Sept. 1. Among the upcoming seminars are those across Albemarle area counties, the first of which are set for July 1 in Camden and July 2 in Currituck. (See our story in last Wednesday’s edition for times, places, etc., of the voter ID seminars planned for the area. Also, for more information on Voter ID, go to https://www.ncsbe.gov/Voter-ID .)

By approving the constitutional amendment in November 2018, North Carolina voters rejected arguments that requiring a voter ID is discriminatory and penalizes poor, elderly and minority residents who may not have a driver’s license or other form of official ID.

Initially, we anticipate the new law probably will result in some non-voting among citizens who in the past would have been able to vote simply because of their record of casting a ballot. Although citizens without an official photo ID may be able to cast provisional ballots, it’s likely that on election day, if they haven’t gotten around to securing an ID, they may just decide to stay home.

That’s not an outcome that benefits strong elections, so elections officials have to get proactive by helping citizens produce an official ID that would include a driver’s license, passport, military ID, student ID or Native American tribal ID. For citizens who plan to vote and who don’t have any of those, they will have to secure an official Voter Photo ID before the first election or primary.

That takes a visit to the local elections office and submission of the following information: the applicant’s name, date of birth and last four digits of their social security number. Elections board officials will take a picture of the applicant and then print the ID card, or mail it to the applicant’s address. The Voter Photo ID is valid for 10 years.

The current state-sponsored seminars are a good way to help citizens understand and prepare for the new voting laws, but they won’t do much good unless the public knows to show up for them. So far, the state has done very little to promote the seminars or take other steps to ensure voters are prepared for the voting changes effective in 2020.

We urge state and area elections officials to begin ramping up a widespread, promotional strategy to better inform citizens how to vote legally in the upcoming elections.