Voter ID bill sees big changes

The lame-duck session is in full swing and North Carolina legislators have drafted the implementing legislation for voter ID. The Senate gave its final approval to the legislation yesterday. Remember, voters went to the polls on November 6 to decide on constitutional amendments without the full picture of the legislative consequences of their vote. The voter ID amendment passed with ballot language merely stating, “require photo ID to vote.” Legislators have emerged with a 16-page-long bill codifying the rules of enfranchisement, the swan-song of the Republican’s veto-proof supermajority.

So far, the session has not been without its ironic twists. Most notably, Sen. Ralph Hise, who was recently fined by the State Board of Elections for campaign finance violations, oversaw the Senate Select Committee on Elections meeting on the voter ID legislation. Motivated by a virtually nonexistent threat of in-person voter fraud, Senate Republicans looked to a senator with a very real track record of violating campaign finance laws to lead them. Moreover, the most significant voter fraud allegation happening in N.C. right now involves absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are overwhelmingly used by white voters, and the law does not require that absentee voters show ID.

A few things to know: Republican legislators modeled this bill on South Carolina’s voter ID law and repeatedly affirmed that it reflects an “open, transparent, and inclusive draft process.” Democrats have entreated Republicans to slow down the process as dozens of changes have been layered into the bill within the scope of a few days. The bill currently provides for a rollout period of five months, a timeline many Senate Democrats noted is too short to implement a statewide overhaul of voting procedures. Even the 2013 bill that was later ruled unconstitutional had a longer rollout period. Republicans, however, armed with a shrinking window of veto-proof power, dismissed concerns of disfranchisement, instead pointing to the majority of voters who decided photo ID must be required to vote.

Below are the basic elements of the bill in more accessible language.

Acceptable forms of ID:

Note: must be valid and unexpired (or expired for less than a year) unless the voter is over the age of 65 and the ID was unexpired on the voter’s 65th birthday.  

  • A North Carolina driver’s license.
  • An ID card issued by the DMV or the DOT.
  • A US passport.
  • A NC voter ID card.
    • Note: the county board of elections will issue, for free, voter ID cards to registered voters.
  • Tribal enrollment card by a federally or state recognized tribe.
  • Student ID card issued by a school in the UNC system, a community college, or “eligible private postsecondary institution” that complies SBE guidelines.
    • Note: the bill outlines the approval process for student ID cards.
  • A government employee ID card (including charter school employees).
  • An out-of-state drivers’ license if the voter’s NC registration was within 90 days of the election.
  • Military & Veteran ID cards.

Exceptions and Provisional Ballots:

The law provides exceptions to the law that allow people to vote with a provisional ballot if they do not have ID. They must sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury. Then county officials decide whether to count the ballots or not.

  • Religious Exceptions: provided to people who cannot be photographed due to their religious beliefs and agree to sign an affidavit.
  • Reasonable Impediment: The State Board will have a reasonable impediment declaration form.
    • Lack of transportation.
    • Disability or illness.
    • Lack of birth certificate or other documents required.
    • Work schedule.
    • Family responsibilities.
  • Natural Disaster: a voter may cast a provisional ballot if they cannot produce photo ID due to being a victim of a natural disaster occurring within 100 days before election day.

Finally, the bill outlines the right of each political party to designate two observers to “attend each polling place at each primary and election.” The chair of each political party in the State can then designate up to 100 “at-large observers.”

Opponents of the bill have repeatedly decried voter ID as a tool of disfranchisement that overwhelmingly affects low-income voters of color and students, all who are more likely to vote Democratic. Protesters have carried signs into the legislative building saying “lame ducks go home,” noting that come January, legislative Republicans will no longer have free reign to carve out the contours of voting access in the state. Until then, the state will shoulder the legacy of a Republican supermajority, determined since 2011, that voters show ID at the polls.