Raleigh, N.C. — The Senate Rules Committee will debate Friday morning a new version of a law that would require voters to show photo identification when they go to the polls.
A similar measure passed the state House in April and is a key priority for House and Senate Republicans alike.
Voters will be educated about provisions in the bill during elections this fall and next year, but they would not be required to show ID until the 2016 election cycle.
"We have tightened it up from what they (the House) sent over," Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said of the bill.
In particular, the Senate version of the bill eliminates the ability of college students to use their university identification cards when they go to the polls. Students would be able to get free IDs issued by the state, Apodaca said.
"I had concerns with how that could be manipulated," Apodaca said.
There had been some controversy over the college ID provision. Under the House bill, students at state institutions, such as University of North Carolina campuses, would have been able to use their student IDs, while those at private schools, such as Duke University, would not have been able to do so.
The Senate bill would not allow voters to use other forms of ID that the House bill contemplated. For example, employee ID cards issued by the state or ID cards given to those on public assistance would no longer qualify.
The bill also makes changes to how voters can request absentee ballots, calling for a pre-printed "request form" rather than requiring voters to hand-write their request for an absentee ballot. That form will require the voter's drivers license, state-issued ID card or the last four digits of a Social Security number.
The measure also provides for how the new requirements will be publicized.
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the sponsor of the House bill, said he had not seen the Senate measure, but said there would almost certainly be a negotiation between the House and Senate on a final bill.
"We both want everybody who is entitled to vote to have the opportunity to vote," he said.
According to Senate staff, an outline of the differences between the two bills includes:
1) Deletes the House provision creating the Voter Identification Verification Act Board.
2) Consolidates the various “educational” provisions contained in the House version and deletes other “educational” provisions. [Part V]
3) Changes the list of acceptable ID documents in proposed GS 163-166.13(e) to: i) require unexpired identifications except in some instances and ii) delete several categories such as UNC system or community college student ID, employer ID, and some other kinds of government IDs issued by local governments. Allows out-of-state drivers licenses to be used only for 90 days after the voter registers. [page 3]
4) Clarifies the disaster provision in GS 163-166.1(a)(3) on how to get a disaster declaration form. [pages 2-3]
5) Amends G.S. 163‑226.3(a)(4) to require county boards of elections to promptly dispatch multipartisan teams to assist nursing home resident vote. Calls on the State Board of Elections to issue temporary rules by 10/1/2013 on this subject. Currently there is limited assistance to such persons – only a near relative, legal guardian or multipartisan county board team can assist voter. [Section 4.6, pages 11-12]
6) Amends G.S. 163‑226.3(a)(4) to provide that if county fails to dispatch a multipartisan team within 15 days those voters can get assistance from anyone but: (i)an owner, manager, director, employee of the hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home in which the voter is a patient or resident; (ii) an individual who holds any elective office under the United States, this State, or any political subdivision of this State; (iii) an individual who is a candidate for nomination or election to such office; or (iv) an individual who holds any office in a State, congressional district, county, or precinct political party or organization, or who is a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party; provided that a delegate to a convention shall not be considered a party office. [Section 4.6, pages 11-12]
7) Amends G.S. 163‑229(b) to add to House provision that the envelope for an absentee ballot contain information about criminal penalties the following language “except if there is not room on the envelope, the State Board of Elections may provide for that disclosure to be made on a separate piece of paper to be included along with the container‑return envelope.” [Section 4.1, page 8]
8) Clarifies effective dates to more closely effectuate intent of bill to phase-in the voter identification requirement.