Leading a seminar

Elections Specialist and instructor Terry Harris with the State Board of Elections presents a seminar Thursday for the public at Carteret Community College concerning acceptable voter identification. Beginning in 2020, North Carolina voters must present a valid form of photo ID to cast a ballot each election. (Dylan Ray photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — State officials spread the word about North Carolina’s new voter ID law in Carteret County last week to help educate voters ahead of the 2020 implementation.

During two sessions Thursday at Carteret Community College in Morehead City, Terry Harris, a representative from the State Board of Elections, spoke to county residents on the voter ID laws set to start next year.

“The voter ID requirement will not start in 2019,” Ms. Harris said. “You have elections this year. There won’t be an ID requirement this year.”

The state’s voter ID law came about after years of political and legal upheaval.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court removed many of the protections enshrined in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Chief among them was the requirement for federal preclearance to change voting laws in states with a history of enacting prejudicial voting regulations. North Carolina was one of the states which required federal preclearance.

Soon after the Supreme Court’s decision, North Carolina’s legislature enacted a voter ID law, which was challenged and eventually overturned in the months prior to the 2016 presidential election. The federal appeals court that struck down the 2013 photo ID law described it as targeting “African-Americans with an almost surgical precision.”

Despite the 2016 decision, the issue of voter ID continued and culminated last year, when legislators gave voters the chance, via a ballot initiative, to enact a voter ID amendment to the state constitution. That measure passed, and voter ID was set to start in 2019, but was postponed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Now, voter ID will become effective in 2020 and will not be applicable to the upcoming municipal or special elections scheduled for later this year.

“The voter ID law officially starts in the primary elections of 2020,” Ms. Harris said.

Proponents of voter ID laws argue the change is straightforward, but Ms. Harris said voters will have to contend with a number of different forms of identification, each with different criteria.

“The legislature did a pretty good job of including more types of (identification),” Ms. Harris said of the latest voter ID measure.

While accepted forms of identification include state issued drivers’ licenses, state-issued ID cards, military identification cards, passports, tribal identification cards, school identification and government employee cards, there are different rules pertaining to each identification.

For example, standard driver’s licenses and passports may be expired for up to a year and still be considered a valid form of identification, according to Ms. Harris. Military identification cards are not subject to rules concerning expiration dates.

“They can be expired 50 years ago and they’re still good for the purposes of (voting),” Ms. Harris said.

Tribal cards also have no expiration limit, although Ms. Harris described a distinction between state- and federally recognized tribal cards.

“There are state-recognized tribal cards (which are different from) federally recognized tribal cards,” Ms. Harris said. “If you possess a state-recognized tribal card, you’re required to have those cards approved in advance by the State Board of Elections.”

College and university identification cards may be accepted, but only if the school in question applied with the SBOE prior to an election. If a school does not apply, then students won’t be able to use their school cards when casting a ballot.

For school- and state-recognized identification cards, the deadline for approval is Friday, Nov. 1.

A relatively new form of ID is available for voting purposes. The cards are distributed by county elections offices, instead of the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, as in the past. The cards include information on voters, as well as a photograph. They are available for free.  

County Board of Election Chairperson Rick Heal asked Ms. Harris why the DMV couldn’t handle the distribution of these new, voting-centric IDs, particularly since the division already has the capacity to take pictures.

Ms. Harris said while she isn’t too familiar with the situation, the state’s DMV offices collectively decided not to take part in distribution of free IDs for voting purposes.

Starting in 2020, voters must present ID in person and when mailing in ballots. Ms. Harris said ballots that are mailed in would require a photocopy of an accepted form of identification. Curbside voters would also need to provide identification.

Despite the voter identification law, no one will be turned away from casting a ballot, even if they aren’t able to produce identification.

“No voter will be turned away from the poll,” Ms. Harris said. “Every person who comes to the poll with the intent to vote (must) be given an opportunity to vote. They will be voting a provisional ballot if they don’t have the appropriate ID.”

Those who voted a provisional ballot have until the canvass, a few days after each election, to present a proper form of ID to their local election board in order for their vote to count, Ms. Harris explained.

“The time of a canvass can vary after an election,” she said.

To access information given at Thursday’s event, contact the Carteret County Board of Elections at 252-728-8460.

Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.

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