After submitting requests for student ID cards to be approved for voting in 2020, 12 of the 17 UNC system campuses failed to meet the requirements — including UNC-Chapel Hill.
All 17 UNC-system campuses applied for approval by the midnight deadline on Wednesday, but the State Board of Elections only approved North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, Elizabeth City State University, Appalachian State University and UNC-Asheville.
The law requires that the student ID cards contain photographs taken by the school, government or its contractors. Schools that issue IDs where students can upload their own pictures could not be approved, Board Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach wrote in a letter to legislators Friday.
Senior Luke Cullifer, UNC-CH Student Government director of state and external affairs, said he has been having conversations with several administrators in the student affairs and ONE Card offices regarding this issue.
“It was really disappointing to see we weren’t able to get this done, because if there was even one student that was going to be able to vote through their student IDs but no longer feels they have that opportunity, that’s one student too many,” he said. “... Seventy different places throughout the state did it, five schools within the UNC system did it, so it’s clear it was achievable, but we weren’t able to pass that bar, and I think that’s a real shame for the flagship of the university system.”
Gerry Cohen, a member of the Wake County Board of Elections, said he was present during a committee room discussion to enact the bill in December. He said the law was hurriedly put together and that he doesn’t think the requirements were fully thought through before the bill was enacted.
“I expect this will get resolved by the legislature, because during the process in December to enact this bill it was stated that student IDs would be permitted," Cohen said. “I honestly don’t think anyone in the legislature knew that 12 of the campuses were allowing pictures to be uploaded, otherwise probably that requirement wouldn’t have been there.”
UNC-system Director of Media Relations Jason Tyson said the decision was surprising, but that the UNC system was not pursuing any legislative action at the moment.
Michael Behrent, a professor at App State and vice president of the N.C. Conference of AAUP, has been working on this issue on his campus. He said while he believes the majority of students have access to another form of identification apart from their student ID, he expects there will still be students negatively affected by Friday’s decision.