North Carolina to Implement Voter ID Law, Testing Ground for 2024 Elections

by Madison Thomas
North Carolina voter ID law

Nearly half a decade has passed since North Carolina’s legislature, dominated by Republicans, passed a voter photo identification statute. Now, after prolonged obstructions due to legal challenges, this legislation is finally coming into effect, coinciding with local elections concluding next week.

The execution of the photo ID directive has reportedly been smooth across three phases of elections, starting with absentee mail-in ballots in mid-August. This is despite officials having limited means to inform the populace about this new development. A minuscule fraction of ballots have been rejected for non-compliance with the ID requirements.

Mecklenburg County’s election director, Michael Dickerson, expressed that the implementation has exceeded expectations. Voters in North Carolina’s second most populous county are casting ballots for various local positions, including those in Charlotte, the school board, and other municipal offices.

Nevertheless, advocates from voter education and civil rights organizations voice their apprehension, suggesting the ID mandate may obstruct voter participation.

Da’Quan Love, executive director for the state’s NAACP, highlighted the covert nature of voting impediments, especially within disenfranchised groups, stating that the impact on those who may be deterred from voting altogether remains unknown. Amidst ongoing federal litigation against the 2018 law for alleged racial discrimination, an appellate court’s reversal allows its enforcement ahead of a full trial.

The current low-stakes elections may well serve as a precursor to the more intense 2024 electoral process, where over five million individuals are anticipated to vote in the populous state’s significant presidential and gubernatorial contests. The preliminary rounds are slated for March.

Out of approximately 99,000 votes for primary or general elections on September 12 and October 10, only 40 were invalidated due to the ID law, per data from the State Board of Elections. Hundreds of thousands more votes are expected for general elections across around 465 jurisdictions, which traditionally see about 15% voter turnout.

Under the stipulated law, voters must produce a photo ID from an approved list, which includes a variety of options like driver’s licenses and university-issued identifications. Free voter ID cards are available through county election offices. Absentee voters are to include ID copies with their mail-in ballots. In cases where photo ID is not available, provisional ballots are permitted, contingent upon completing an exception form or later presenting an ID at the election office.

The non-profit You Can Vote, focused on voter registration and education, has encountered cases of misunderstanding among voters, particularly new residents, regarding ID requirements. With 70,000 voters educated this year, concerns are growing over potential errors, especially in mail-in voting, which could complicate future elections, according to the organization’s leader, Kate Fellman.

Efforts to expand voter education will benefit from state budget allocations this fall, with plans for widespread campaigns next year. The State Board of Elections is gearing up for differentiated messaging strategies for different voter demographics, as articulated by Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell.

For some, like Kimberly Sherrill, a 63-year-old retired university employee, the process may be somewhat cumbersome but not objectionable. Sherrill is amenable to the idea of presenting identification for voting.

The mandate aligns North Carolina with the 36 states that require some form of voter ID, 20 of which specifically require a photo ID, as noted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Proponents, primarily Republicans, have long advocated for voter ID laws, citing them as deterrents to fraud and measures to reinforce electoral integrity. Conversely, critics argue that voter fraud risks are negligible, and such laws disproportionately disenfranchise minority and economically disadvantaged voters.

Voters like Bill MacMillan from Cary, 67, recognize that possessing multiple forms of ID is a privilege not shared by all, emphasizing that voter ID laws can inadvertently suppress the vote and run counter to the American ethos.

Despite the 2018 law’s more inclusive criteria for acceptable IDs, its journey has been tumultuous, with both federal and state judiciary blocks for perceived racial bias until appellate court reversals allowed its enforcement. The state Supreme Court’s recent Republican-majority ruling has cleared the path for the voter ID law’s application this fall, with potential implications for the 2024 elections depending on the outcome of the NAACP’s lawsuit which is expected to be heard next year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about North Carolina voter ID law

What is the status of North Carolina’s voter ID law?

The voter ID law in North Carolina, initially passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and held up by legal challenges for nearly five years, is now being implemented in local elections. This move comes ahead of the 2024 presidential and gubernatorial races.

How has the voter ID requirement been received during recent elections?

According to state officials, the voter ID requirement has been integrated smoothly in the recent local elections, with a very low percentage of ballots being rejected for failing to meet the ID requirements.

Are there concerns regarding the new voter ID process?

Yes, voter education and civil rights advocates are concerned that the new voter ID process may hinder voting, especially in marginalized communities. The state’s NAACP executive director has pointed out that not all voting barriers are visible and that some people may be dissuaded from voting altogether.

What are the implications of the current elections for future ones in North Carolina?

The elections taking place are viewed as a test run for the 2024 elections when voter turnout is expected to be significantly higher. The outcomes and learnings from the current implementation could shape the voter experience in these future elections.

How is voter ID law enforcement affecting ballots?

State Board of Elections data indicates that out of 99,000 votes cast by mail or in person, only 40 were not counted due to the voter ID law’s requirements. This suggests that the impact of the law on ballot validity has been minimal to date.

What are the available forms of photo identification under the law?

The law stipulates that voters must present photo identification from a range of nearly a dozen categories, including driver’s licenses, military IDs, university IDs, and government employee IDs. Additionally, county election offices are mandated to provide free voter ID cards.

What happens if a voter cannot produce a photo ID?

Voters who cannot provide a photo ID at the polls have the option to cast a provisional ballot. They must complete an exception form or later present a suitable ID at their local election office for their vote to be counted.

More about North Carolina voter ID law

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Mike Johnson November 4, 2023 - 9:10 am

it seems like North Carolina is really pushing this voter ID thing hard, wonder how it’s going to play out in the bigger elections

Tommy Lee November 4, 2023 - 9:31 am

theres always a lot of talk about voter fraud but where’s the actual proof? Feels like these ID laws are just making it tougher for some ppl to vote

Sandra T November 4, 2023 - 8:50 pm

I heard about the voter ID laws, but didn’t realize they’re already in effect! Does anyone know if other states are this strict?

Lizbeth K. November 4, 2023 - 11:19 pm

Voting should be easy for everyone, this ID requirement could discourage people, especially if they don’t have the resources to understand the new rules

Gary Smith November 5, 2023 - 5:25 am

i’ve been following the court cases on this, looks like NC’s legal battles are far from over… what happens if they change the law again before 2024?


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