LAUREN KAY CHIARADIO
In the 2018 midterm, North Carolinians were given the ability to vote for passing a voter ID amendment to the Constitution of North Carolina. Of those who voted on the amendment, 55.5 percent voted in favor, making the amendment law. This new amendment, unless struck down by the courts, requires that all voters present ID when they go to vote, a move that is criticized by many.
In recent years, voter ID has played a significant role in North Carolina politics. In 2013, a voter ID law had been put in place, and a lawsuit was filed which resulted in the 4th circuit court ruling the law illegal. After this, the state legislature tried to pass a new voter ID law, whose primary sponsors were all republican congress members. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, however, vetoed the bill after it passed through the legislature.
In response, the legislature decided to put a referendum for adding voter ID requirements into North Carolina’s constitution. After the referendum received a majority of votes in favor, it became law. One of the likely reasons behind passing this referendum as a constitutional amendment is because it is much harder to undo an amendment than a normal law.
The purpose of this amendment and voter ID laws like it is claimed to be protecting elections from voter impersonation and voter fraud. However, instances of this are rare in North Carolina.
According to the April 2017 audit of the 2016 election, conducted by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, only 21 instances of voter impersonation were detected, and according to the audit, “documents indicate that a number of these are likely cases of mistaken identity.” As for voter fraud, the same audit states that “approximately 0.01 percent of ballots were cast by ineligible voters.”
However, the rarity of these instances has not prevented legislatures from working to eradicate these crimes by using voter ID laws.
According to Representative David Lewis, a republican in North Carolina’s House who has served nine terms in office, “valid IDs include student IDs, drivers’ licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, voter and state employee cards, and Native American tribal cards… State and local government IDs along with a new free ID issued by the DMV and the County Board of Elections” are included as well.
Representative Lewis also made it clear that this new amendment has some key differences from the law that was struck down in 2013. He explained that “this bill is far more expansive and voter inclusive” than the previous law. In addition, he noted that “this legislation had Democratic sponsors.”
Overall, Representative Lewis described the bill as a means of “deliver[ing]… simple and commonsense election integrity.”
However, when speaking to Mike Burns, the National Director at Campus Vote Project, which is a project sponsored by the nonpartisan Fair Elections Center, he had a much more critical look of the amendment.
When discussing the impact on students, Mr. Burns explained that while it is true, “students could use ID to vote… each individual institution will now have to have their president or chancellor or… registrar submit, under penalty of perjury, an affidavit to the State Board of Elections and meet a requirement of about eight different things and [send] a copy of what a generic ID would look like.” He then explained that from his observations “that it is very likely a majority of higher education institutions will not make that submission and their students will not be able to use student ID to vote.”
The deadline for a school’s ID to be accepted by the State Board of Elections is March 15, where it will then be locked in for both the 2019 and 2020 elections.
Other options for students would be a North Carolina drivers license, but if a student either does not have a driver’s license or is from out of state but votes in North Carolina, one would need to go to their County Board of Elections to fill out paperwork to receive a free state ID.
Mr. Burns also noted that there are currently “two lawsuits [against the bill] already, one by the North Carolina NAACP and some of its local chapters in federal court… and another… by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and a couple of other organizations and plaintiffs… in state court.” He said he was “optimistic” about the chances these lawsuits will successfully strike down the law.