North Carolina college students and employees could be using their university IDs to vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Sponsored by North Carolina Representatives Zack Hawkins, D-District 31, and Ray Russell, D-District 93, the Revise Approval of Student/Employee ID/Voting bill, or House Bill 397, was filed on March 19.
HB 397 calls to revise the approval process and implementation dates so there are more opportunities for university student and employee IDs to be used as voting identification.
The bill would revise a previous bill called HB 167, filed in February 2019 by Hawkins and Russell, that would have extended the deadline whereby the N.C. State Board of Elections is required to approve the use of certain forms of voter identification.
“When it wasn’t taken up, it turns out that there was a bill that came through both the Senate and the House and was passed to exempt all 2019 elections from the voter ID law all together,” said Russell. “That bill gave us an opportunity to run that idea as an amendment, the same idea just extends the deadline to September 15.”
On March 15, the State Board of Elections released their list of schools and institutions whose student or employee IDs are accepted as forms of voter identification. Of 85 schools that applied for approval, 72 colleges and universities had their IDs accepted.
This includes five UNC campuses and nine community colleges.
Russell said some schools’ inability to comply with certain requirements prevented them from being approved.
“For the most part it was about the photo and how the photo was taken,” said Russell. “The second reason was that the original bill required a list of things that universities had to have and they couldn’t always have exactly that list for all cases.”
The key difference implemented by the new bill is its loosening of these requirements to help universities better comply. One of these requirements stated that universities needed to obtain their students’ social security numbers and citizenship status.
“Universities mostly have that information but in certain cases, could not require a student to offer that information,” said Russell. “We loosened that language a little bit so that the person can be confident that the person holding the ID is the person they claim to be but it loosened those requirements to such that the universities can comply with that.”
Hawkins said there are never too many paths that could be taken to enable people to vote.
“If this is yet another path to enable someone who doesn’t have one of those (IDs) or is not able to afford those, who have some barrier to get any of those other forms of IDs, this helps to bridge that divide," Hawkins said.
Russell said accepting student and employee IDs could also increase voter turnout.
“As long as they are identified when they come to vote and we have removed the barriers for that to happen, that is all good democracy and it’s what this country ought to be about,” Russell said.
But Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst of the John Locke Foundation, said most voters don't rely on student or university IDs.
“All of the debate about other IDs is for a small portion of the electorate that doesn’t have a valid driver’s license,” said Kokai.
Kokai said HB 397 is a part of the larger discussion regarding voter ID laws and that state politics reduce this bill’s chances of ratification.
“We’re talking about a bill that was filed completely by Democrats and its co-sponsors are all Democrats,” said Kokai. “Republicans run the State House, they run the Senate, so the legislation that’s likely to get through is much more likely to be bills sponsored by Republicans or, and we’ve seen quite a bit of this already so far this year, bills that have bipartisan sponsors.”
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