What to know about NC’s new voter ID requirement and what you’ll need at the polls

This election season, voters will be required to present a photo identification at the polls following a landmark decision last month from the state Supreme Court.

Now that the dust has had some time to settle from the ruling, the State Board of Elections has issued some guidance on how this requirement will be implemented.

The first elections in which voters will have to show ID will be the 2023 municipal elections, held between September and November.

We’ve compiled responses to some potential questions on the ruling here.

Will I be required to show an ID to vote?

All voters will be asked to show an ID before voting. If you do not have an ID, you may fill out an ID exception form and then vote with a provisional ballot. You can also vote with a provisional ballot and return to the county board of elections office the day before county canvass — a post-election process of approving election results — with a valid ID.

What is an ID exception form?

When a voter is unable to provide ID at the ballot, they will be given an ID exception form. A voter using the form “would sign their name and attest that they are the registered voter they identified themselves to be when they checked in, and that they qualify for one of the three exceptions to providing ID,” Pat Gannon, a spokesperson for the State Board of Elections, said.

The three acceptable exceptions are as follows:

1. The voter has a reasonable impediment to presenting photo ID. This category is wide-ranging and includes lost or stolen IDs, lack of transportation, disability or illness, conflicting work schedules or family responsibilities, lack of documentation such as birth certificates needed to get an ID, or not yet receiving an ID after applying for one.

2. The voter has a religious objection to being photographed.

3. The voter suffered a federal or state-declared natural disaster within 100 days of the election.

Bipartisan county boards of elections are required to count ballots with completed ID exception forms “unless the county board has grounds to believe the affidavit is false,” according to state law.

What is a provisional ballot?

Voters receive a provisional ballot when there is uncertainty regarding a voter’s eligibility to participate in an election — such as when a voter is unable to provide a photo ID. Provisional ballots are held aside while county boards determine if a voter is eligible to vote. All eligible provisional ballots must be counted before election results can be finalized. The state board of elections says a provisional ballot, accompanied with an ID exception form, may only be rejected if “the bipartisan county board of elections has grounds to believe that the voter provided false information on the form.”

What counts as a valid photo ID?

According to the State Board of Elections, the following IDs will be accepted for voting:

  • North Carolina driver’s license

  • State ID from the NCDMV (also called “non-operator ID”)

  • Driver’s license or non-driver ID from another state, District of Columbia or U.S. territory (only if voter registered in North Carolina within 90 days of the election)

  • U.S. passport or passport card

  • North Carolina voter photo ID card issued by a county board of elections (available soon)

  • College or university student ID approved by the State Board of Elections (available soon)

  • State or local government or charter school employee ID approved by the State Board of Elections (available soon)

How do I get an ID?

All county boards of elections will soon have the ability to provide free voter photo IDs to any registered voter. Those interested must provide their name, birthday and the last four digits of their Social Security number, and have their photo taken. The state board has not said exactly when counties will begin offering this service.

All North Carolina residents are also eligible to receive free non-driver ID cards from the DMV.

The state board said it is also working to approve student and public employee IDs for voters. Once new forms of IDs are approved, they’ll be added to the board’s voter ID webpage.

How did we get here?

Voter ID was initially approved by voters as a constitutional amendment in 2018, but a law detailing how it would work was struck down in December by the formerly Democratic-controlled Supreme Court, which ruled that the requirement was racially discriminatory.

The new court, which has a Republican majority, overturned that ruling on April 28.

“The people of North Carolina overwhelmingly support voter identification and other efforts to promote greater integrity and confidence in our elections,” the court wrote in the Holmes v. Moore decision.

“This Court has traditionally stood against the waves of partisan rulings in favor of the fundamental principle of equality under the law,” the court wrote. “We recommit to that fundamental principle and begin the process of returning the judiciary to its rightful place as ‘the least dangerous’ branch.”

The ruling might not be the final word on voter ID.

A related federal case could proceed toward trial later this year or next year, said Jeff Loperfido, interim chief counsel for voting rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and one of the lawyers who argued the case.

Having seen the elections board’s new guidance for voting with an ID, Loperfido said he still has many concerns, specifically around the board’s ability to provide free IDs and educate voters without more funding.

“We remain concerned about the impact this is going to have — specifically given that we know who lacks the IDs that this law endorses,” he said. “That’s going to fall on voters of color, student voters, voters with disabilities and it’s troubling that there is not a more complete plan out there with adequate funding.”

The House’s budget proposal includes $3.5 million, but the Senate’s proposal does not allocate any extra money to the board.

Even if there were more resources and time to implement the photo ID requirement, Loperfido contends the law would still harm voter turnout.

“How many people get to the polls, realize they don’t have an ID, and leave?” he said. “Just the existence of the law has the tendency for some voters to prevent them from even attempting to vote.”