A bill requiring voters to present identification before casting ballots in North Carolina elections is making its way through the N.C. legislature. Local officials say they’re watching the proceedings carefully.
A bill requiring voters to present identification before casting ballots in North Carolina elections is making its way through the N.C. legislature.
Local officials say they’re watching the proceedings carefully.
Drafted after voters in the state passed a constitutional amendment last month, a version of the bill has passed the N.C. Senate and will make its way through the House as early as this week.
The bill outlines what photo identification will be accepted for voting as well as exceptions to the photo identification requirement.
Rep. Robert Reives II (D, N.C. House Dist. 54) noted that the General Assembly is still operating under a veto-proof super majority. As such, he says he’s waiting to see what changes may come out of the House discussion of the bill.
“Even though this bill has passed the Senate, there are still 120 members of the House that are reviewing the bill,” said Reives, who won re-election in November and has expressed concerns about how Voter ID legislation will develop. “It will have to pass Federal Constitutional muster as well.”
Chatham County Board of Elections Executive Director Pandora Paschal is watching the process too, as well as awaiting advice from the state about the new law’s implementation.
“The county will adhere to whatever they outline for us to do,” Paschal said, noting her office will receive guidance from the state board of elections following passage of the bill.
Paschal also noted that since there’s no appropriation in the Senate version of the bill as of now, the county would bear the full financial burden of any equipment or resources the county board of elections office would need to comply with the new law.
Language in the bill indicates that photo identification that would be accepted at the polls include identification issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, passports, tribal enrollment cards, a student identification from a public or private university and community colleges in North Carolina, and employee identification issued by a local or state entity.
To be accepted, the identifications would need to have a photograph of the voter. In addition, the identification must be valid or unexpired or expired less than a year.
In addition, county boards of elections offices will begin issuing free photo ID voter registration cards for those who request it. Those IDs would be valid for 10 years, according to the Senate version of the bill.
U.S. military identification cards and cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for use at medical facilities will also be accepted even if expired. Voters over the age of 65 will also be allowed to use expired identification if the card was not expired when the voter reached 65.
The existing bill provides greater photo identification options than the 2013 Voter ID bill that was struck down by federal courts two years ago for targeting minority voters.
The bill also includes exceptions for the photo identification requirement. A voter may refuse due to religious objection to being photographed. Voters who do not have an ID because of natural disaster occurring within 100 days of an election would also be able to be exempt.
The bill also describes an exemption for a “reasonable impediment.” Those exemptions include lack of transportation, disability, lack of documentation, work schedule, lost or stolen identification, or identification that was applied for, but not yet received by the voter. Lack of knowledge of the new photo identification requirement will also be an exemption, but only for elections in 2019.
Anyone who wishes to claim an exemption to the law would have to complete and swear out an affidavit pertaining to their reason for exemption. Lying on the affidavit would be charged with perjury, a Class F felony under North Carolina law which can carry a sentence of between 10 and 41 months, depending on prior convictions.
The Senate version of the bill would make photo identification a requirement for voters beginning in the May primary of next year.