North Carolina voters will be able to cast their ballots in the 2019 municipal elections without a photo ID, but after that a valid form of identification will be required before voting.

In the 2018 general election, a statewide referendum on requiring photo ID to vote passed with 55 percent of voters in favor of the measure.

The new requirements were delayed until the 2020 election cycle, but the North Carolina State Board of Elections has already started holding information sessions across the state to get voters up to speed.

One such information session was held earlier this month at the Haywood County Historic Courthouse.

“These sessions are required by law, but we do appreciate people coming out to learn about the new things taking effect next year,” said Jason Schrader with the North Carolina State Board of Elections during the June 17 presentation.

What kind of ID is allowed?

The new voting restrictions allow for a broad range of identification cards, in an effort to reduce the possibility of unnecessarily disenfranchising voters.

A valid North Carolina driver’s license or non-operator ID card is typically what voters will use to prove their identity at the polls, but many others will be accepted. U.S. passports, military ID cards and tribal ID cards will all be accepted. Many universities have received approval for their school-issued photo IDs to be accepted, and approved employee IDs from state or local government agencies, schools or public universities are valid, as well.

Out-of-state licenses will also be accepted, but only if the voter’s registration in North Carolina occurred within 90 days of the election.

What if a voter doesn’t own an ID?

The state elections board has also approved another form of photo ID if none of the pre-approved options is available to a voter — a North Carolina Voter Photo ID card.

The card is provided free of charge at local board of elections offices throughout the state. To receive one, voters must simply visit their local board and provide their name, date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security Number. A photo will be taken on-site, and a card will be mailed to the voter at the address provided.

Alternative voting methods

Voting by mail, curbside voting and early voting will remain largely the same with the new requirements, but an ID is required for each form of voting. For absentee by mail voting, a copy of a valid form of identification must be included with the voter’s mail-in ballot. For curbside voting, voters will need to present an ID when prompted by a poll worker at the curb.

Early voting will also remain unchanged, aside from the requirement to present an ID before receiving a ballot.

Can a vote be cast without an ID?

Although there are new requirements taking effect next year, there are failsafes in place in case a voter forgets their ID or cannot reasonably obtain one.

“One of the most important concepts is that no potential voter will be turned away from the polls and told they cannot vote because they don’t have photo ID,” Schrader said. “Provisional ballots offer everyone the opportunity to vote.”

A provisional ballot can be submitted by a voter lacking approved identification, and the ballot can be counted once the voter provides either an approved form of ID or demonstrates what the state election board refers to as a “reasonable impediment.”

If a voter simply forgets to bring their identification to the polls, or doesn’t possess a valid form of ID until after they cast a provisional ballot, they may simply bring the approved identification to their local board of elections at any time before the end of business on the last business day before canvass, when final vote tallies are calculated.

Voters may also have their provisional ballot counted if they present evidence of a reasonable impediment, which includes a number of possible situations that might prevent a voter from reasonably obtaining an ID.

If a voter lacks access to transportation and cannot acquire an ID card, or is prevented from acquiring a card due to an illness or disability, their provisional ballot would be counted. Other reasonable impediments include a lack of access to documents necessary to receive an ID, such as a birth certificate or Social Security Card, as well as work schedules or family requirements preventing the voter from reasonably being able to obtain a card.

Learn more

A full overview of the new voting regulations,is available online at www.ncsbe.gov/Voter-ID.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections also encourages local community groups and businesses to host their own information sessions, using the materials provided on their website including slides and training instructions for those organizing the session. The state board is currently seeking input on the implementation of the rules changes, which can be submitted online to rules@ncsbe.gov or by mail at Attn: Rulemaking, P.O. Box 27255, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27611-7255.

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