Local officials react to proposed voter ID bill

Published 12:10 am Sunday, December 2, 2018

With the Thanksgiving holiday behind them, members of the North Carolina General Assembly reconvened Tuesday for a lame duck session.

Highest on an agenda that included additional Hurricane Florence relief, North Carolina business incentives and more was the recently ballot-approved voter ID amendment.

Among four approved constitutional amendments accepted during the Nov. 6 election, the amendment will require all in-person voters to present a form of photographic identification as they journey to the polls.

The text, as all others amendments on the ballot, contained no enabling legislation. Accordingly, legislators are hard at work to finalize its details before its veto-proof majority is lost to January’s new crop of elected officials.

Rowan County Elections Director Nancy Evans said senators and representatives had “a lot of work to do,” after parsing the 16-page proposed legislation on Friday.

The bill moved from the Senate to the House on Thursday by a 30-10 vote. As it stands, it outlines roughly a dozen acceptable IDs, including North Carolina drivers licenses, state-issued nonoperators licenses, passports, tribal enrollment cards, post-secondary student ID cards, and state employee ID cards expired four years or less.

It also allowed for military ID cards, veterans ID cards and expired IDs for senior voters provided the ID was unexpired at the time of their 65th birthday.

A large cause for concern, according to Evans, was a proposed requirement that all county Board of Elections offer photo voter ID cards to registrants at no cost.

“That will take time or new equipment of some kind to do,” she said. “That’s going to be costing money.”

The legislation also requires other potential expenses, including two years of biannual mailers to all registered voters about the requirements.

She also expressed concern over the acceptance of student ID cards, as the Senate-approved bill outlined several restrictive requirements for institutions to be accepted.

“It doesn’t need to be that many types of ID,” said Evans. “It needs to be very consistent and common sense, because these are people who are coming in to vote.”

State employee IDs required similar requirements.

But Rowan County Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, said he expected the financial impact to be minimal outside of a one-time expense for providing county boards with the equipment necessary to produce local voter IDs.

“In 2013- 2014, the State Board of Education spent approximately $2 million dollars of its appropriation educating the general electorate about the photo requirements for voting in person in the 2016 election,” he said. “It is anticipated that the expenditure for implementing the education requirement in this new legislation will be approximately the same, or less.”

Sen. Dan Barrett, R-34, agreed.

“As the people mandated voter ID, we were charged with taking necessary steps to implement a cost-effective system that preserves the integrity of the voting process while making sure that all eligible voters can obtain photo identification as needed,” he said. “I anticipate the cost will be line with what our citizens would feel is appropriate.”

Warren expressed plans to explore another, cost-effective option as the House Elections and Ethics Committee hears the bill on Monday: an amendment directing the State Board to explore the feasibility of a statewide, digital database of registered voters’ photos,

The database could be created by capturing digital photos during the registration process at local boards as well as by capturing voter photos from the DMV, he said.

“This would create yet another way for voters to easily acquire a free photo ID that could be pulled up by poll workers when they vote,” he said.

He also said he would be offering an amendment to address a lack of direction for provisional ballot validation.

The legislation allows voters to cast provisional ballots without acceptable IDs in the event of religious objections, natural disasters or reasonable impediments: lack of transportation, disability or illness, lack of required documents, work schedule, family responsibilities, or a lost or stolen ID.

These exceptions each require completion of an affidavit under penalty of perjury.

The proposed bill simple states that provisional ballots shall be found valid “unless the county board has grounds to believe the affidavit is false.”

Sen. Tom McInnis and Reps. Carl Ford, Larry Pittman and Julia Howard had not responded to the Post’s request for comment by time of print.