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Senate gives final approval to voter ID rules

Posted November 28, 2018 6:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2018 5:24 p.m. EST

— The Senate gave final approval Thursday to legislation setting the rules for the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Sens. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, and Don Davis, D-Pitt, joined the Republican majority in the 30-10 vote. Those two Democrats and Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, also voted for the new rules in Wednesday's 32-11 preliminary vote.

The measure now heads to the House.

There was little debate in the Senate on Thursday, but several Democrats repeatedly called Wednesday for slowing down the process, noting dozens of changes have already been made to the draft legislation that was first rolled out a week ago and suggesting people will be wrongly blocked from voting if IDs are required starting next year.

"A rollout period of five months is just too short," said Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, noting some municipal primaries will be held in the spring. "Sometimes we don't do a real good job as a state implementing big systems."

But Senate Republicans voted down or pushed aside several Democratic-sponsored amendments, saying North Carolina voters spoke three weeks ago in calling for voter ID to be part of future elections.

"This doesn't disenfranchise anybody," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "What it does disenfranchise is cheating. ... This is simply a fairness issue that people have wanted for a long time."

Under Senate Bill 824, the following IDs would be acceptable at the polls:

  • A North Carolina driver's license
  • Identification cards for non-drivers issued by the state Division of Motor Vehicles
  • U.S. passports
  • A county-issued voter ID card
  • A tribal enrollment card issued by a federally or state-recognized tribe.
  • A student ID card from a University of North Carolina school, a community college or a private university
  • An employee identification card issued by a state or local government entity, including a charter school
  • A driver's license or ID card issued by another state if the voter's registration came within 90 days of the election

All of those types of ID must be valid and either unexpired or expired for less than a year. Officials at university, colleges and local government entities would be required to certify every four years that their processes for printing IDs are secured and that they have verified the age and citizenship status of recipients.

The bill also allows the following forms of ID regardless of whether they carry expiration or issuance dates:

  • A military ID issued by the U.S. government
  • A veteran's identification card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Any of the allowed IDs, even if they're expired, if the voter is at least 65 years old, as long as the ID was unexpired on his or her 65th birthday.

The measure initially said voter ID cards would be good for eight years, but an amendment extended that to 10 years. Still, Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton, questioned why government-issued IDs wouldn't be accepted at all times.

"By the U.S. Constitution, I was granted the right to vote upon the age of 18, and that does not expire," Smith said, adding that her Social Security card and birth certificate don't have a photo or an expiration date, and she is allowed to use them for various legal purposes.

The list of acceptable IDs included in the bill is longer than in a 2013 state law that was thrown out by federal courts two years ago as targeting minority voters.

The bill also allows three exceptions to the ID requirement: a religious objection to have a photo taken, a natural disaster that occurs with 100 days of an election or a reasonable impediment to obtaining an ID.

What constitutes a "reasonable impediment" wasn't initially spelled out in the bill, but an amendment adopted Wednesday includes such reasons as a lost or stolen ID and a disability or family or work responsibilities that didn't leave enough time to get an ID. For elections in 2019, not knowing the new ID requirement also would be accepted as a reasonable impediment.

Anyone meeting those three exceptions would be allowed to vote a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit under penalty of perjury that he or she is the person allowed to vote who appeared at the polling place and stating the reason for not having a photo ID. County elections officials would then decide whether to count each provisional ballot.