- North Carolinians clearly showed that they want to protect election integrity through a photographic voter ID requirement.
- The implementation of voter ID is critical to ensuring the security of the state’s elections.
On Election Day, North Carolina voters approved four of the six proposed amendments to the state constitution. While some votes may still come in, the results at the close of Election Day for each of the amendments were as follows:
- Right to Hunt and Fish – PASS
- For – 57.13%
- Against 42.87%
- Strengthening Victim’s Rights/Mary’s Law – PASS
- For – 62.11%
- Against – 37.89%
- Maximum Income Tax Rate of 7% – PASS
- For – 57.37%
- Against – 42.63%
- Require Photo ID to Vote – PASS
- For – 55.52%
- Against – 44.48%
- Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission – FAIL
- For – 33.1%
- Against – 66.9%
- Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections – FAIL
- For – 38.35%
- Against – 61.65%
An amendment requiring voters to present a photo identification for voting in person passed with 55 percent support. This brings North Carolina into the mainstream of U.S. states; thirty-four states already require some sort of identification for voting in person. Of those, 17 states require a photo ID. In fact, many Western democracies require voter ID in some form.
The photo ID amendment language specifies that, “The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing the requirements of such photographic identification, which may include exceptions.” The General Assembly will likely pass implementing legislation for voter ID and the other amendments in the special session that is scheduled for later this November.
Republicans have a narrow window between now and January to pass legislation under their veto-proof majority. Although Republicans were able to maintain control of both chambers of the state legislature, they failed to preserve the three-fifths supermajority requirement in the North Carolina House and Senate. This is especially critical since the sitting governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat. The threat of veto will hold much more significance in the upcoming 2019 session now that the Republicans cannot override a veto on their own. This reality will likely shape all policy outcomes for at least the next two years.
With that context in mind, it is imperative to design comprehensive implementing legislation that is fair and also ensures the integrity of our elections. It is important to keep a few things in mind:
First, the types of ID will matter. Everyone who is eligible to vote does not have a driver’s license, so while that will be the ID of choice for most people, other options should be available. The General Assembly did this in a 2013 elections reform law that included a voter ID requirement. The law was later struck down in federal court. North Carolina can look to other states as a starting point for what types of IDs the state could consider. The types of IDs allowed in the previous law and those allowed by other photo ID states can be viewed in this previous Civitas article.
When deciding the types of IDs that will be accepted, legislative leaders have expressed a desire to provide acceptable state IDs free of charge. This is an excellent solution to ensure that election integrity is protected and that having the right to vote is not a function of income. The free ID should be easily accessible, as well. For example, providing the free photo IDs at each county courthouse would ensure that residents across the state have access to IDs. This solution is preferable to using the state DMV offices because DMV offices may not exist in many rural areas. This option could increase efficiency because it utilizes existing local infrastructures across the state. There will be costs associated with providing the free IDs, but elections administration is a core function of state and local government. How could you finance the additional services? This year’s state budget contains plenty of pork spending that could be redirected to this worthy cause. Or the state could find additional money by ending corporate welfare.
Aside from the free state IDs, there are several common photo IDs that are accepted by other states as polling identification. Legislators should carefully consider the implications of some of the IDs. For example, the Left strongly advocates for accepting student IDs at the polls. While it may seem harmless, student IDs fail to provide needed information. University students may or may not be permanent residents of North Carolina – they may or may not even be U.S. citizens. Accepting student IDs opens the door for non-residents or non-citizens to vote in North Carolina elections. Policies such as same-day voter registration mean that registration is not an effective screening process for residency. Out-of-state North Carolina college students should vote absentee in their state of residence.
Legislators also need to consider the types of exceptions that will be allowed under the voter ID amendment. In response to pressure from the Left and progressive federal courts, the General Assembly watered down the 2013 voter ID law before it was eventually thrown out by the courts anyway. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, states have the option to implement “strict” or “non-strict” voter ID. Strict voter ID says that voters can cast provisional ballots without an ID on election day, but must provide identification within a designated timeframe in order to have the ballot counted. Non-strict ID allows voters to cast provisional ballots with no ID and no further action required by the voter for the vote to be counted.
While it is wise to allow accommodations for extraordinary circumstances, too many loopholes can jeopardize the legitimacy of elections. If a voter ID requirement is too lax, it could end up as nothing more than a false sense of security. In approving the photo ID amendment, North Carolinians have sent a clear message that they care about the security of our elections; the General Assembly should remember that when working out the details of voter ID implementation.