No voter ID approval for 12 UNC campuses, including Chapel Hill

Ball in General Assembly's court as voter ID deadline passes, but no elections at stake until 2020.

Posted Updated
Voting in N.C., voting generic
Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Student IDs from a dozen University of North Carolina schools, including UNC-Chapel Hill, didn't get the signoff they needed Friday for students to use them at the polls during the 2020 elections.

With a deadline in state law passing, it's up to the General Assembly to act, or these IDs won't satisfy the state's new voter ID law next year.

Republican leaders have said they want students to be able to use campus IDs at the polls, but they declined this week to delay Friday's deadline for the State Board of Elections to certify that each campus meets requirements laid out in state code late last year.

They did agree to put off North Carolina's ID requirements for voting until 2020, meaning photo IDs won't be required for elections this year. That includes a pair of called congressional elections in the 3rd and 9th districts.

The problem for most of the universities: They let students provide pictures for their own IDs. A law passed after voters approved a constitutional amendment in November requiring photo identification at the polls requires universities to take those pictures themselves or to have a contractor do it.

Campus-by-campus practices also vary on Social Security numbers and other key identifiers, leaving some schools out of step with the law, State Board of Elections Director Kim Strach said in a letter late Friday to the chairs of elections committees in the General Assembly.

"Some of these processes might be satisfactory to confirm the identity of the student, but the current statutory requirement that Social Security number, citizenship status and birth date be included in the confirmation process would need to be removed in order for these institutions to comply," Strach wrote.

"I wanted to bring the reasons for the disapprovals to your attention in hopes that there can be a legislative remedy," she wrote.

Most of the attention in this process has been on the state's public universities, but there are some 850 colleges, local governments, charter schools, tribal entities and state agencies that could apply to the state board to have their employee and other IDs approved for use in voting.

More than 80 did so by a midnight Wednesday deadline. Seventy-two were approved by Friday's deadline, Strach said in her letter. North Carolina State University and Duke University both had their student IDs approved.

Strach said the state board doesn't know why so many entities didn't apply, but she wrote that some institutions indicated they couldn't meet the requirements. Others, she wrote, asked for an extension that, by law, the board couldn't give.

Democrats jumped on the issue late Friday, issuing a statement through the state party and pointing out their legislative efforts to push back the deadline.

"This voter suppression legislation is a train wreck waiting to happen," Sen. Wiley Nickel, D-Wake, said in the statement.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, a key leader on election matters, told the WUNCPolitics podcast earlier this week that the General Assembly would work with universities that have "a few outstanding concerns" before the 2020 election cycle.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said earlier this week that it was too soon to say what the legislature would do until after Friday's results came in.

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, who co-sponsored the legislation that laid out voter ID rules last year, issued a statement Thursday, saying he believed all UNC system campuses met the rules but that, "the State Board of Elections, which is controlled by Governor Cooper, has the final say in approving those certifications."

Board staff, led by Strach, handled the certifications, not the board members that Cooper appointed. Strach was appointed executive director of the board under former Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.


Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.