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Saturday June 12th

How is Orange County responding to the N.C. voter ID law?

<p>Rachel Raper, director of the Orange County Board of Elections, gives a presentation at the Chapel Hill Public Library on April 24 to educate county residents about the new voter ID law.</p>
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Rachel Raper, director of the Orange County Board of Elections, gives a presentation at the Chapel Hill Public Library on April 24 to educate county residents about the new voter ID law.

Rachel Raper, the Orange County director of elections, has a wish for the Easter Bunny – but it’s not chocolate.

“If I could ask the Easter Bunny for anything, it is to certainly allow more universities, particularly UNC at Chapel Hill, for those student IDs to be a valid form of identification for voting,” she said. 

Senate Bill 824, which survived after the General Assembly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto this past December, requires photographic identification to vote starting in 2020. 

The types of IDs that will be accepted are:

  • state driver's licenses
  • United States passports
  • North Carolina voter ID cards
  • special ID cards
  • tribal enrollment cards
  • government employee identification cards
  • driver’s licenses issued by another state to a voter who registered to vote within 90 days of the election
  • U.S. military identification cards or Veterans Identification cards
  • certain student IDs

All these IDs have to be valid and unexpired or expired for less than a year.

Raper explained the rules and regulations surrounding voter identification at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Wednesday. The League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham counties sponsored the event.

Raper said although the Orange County Board of Elections will begin distributing voter IDs – which are available to any registered voter in the county and required for voters without an alternative valid form of photo identification – on May 1, the board still hasn’t received clear guidelines from the N.C. State Board of Elections on what that process will entail.

“We’re used to that in election administration,” she said. “We often don’t get the rules, or the rules change right at the last minute, so this isn’t anything new, and myself and my staff are ready to roll with the punches.”

Many N.C. college IDs, including UNC’s, are not considered acceptable forms of voter identification. However, H.B. 397 might change that.

“If that doesn’t happen, then we’re really going to have to look at how we can get on campus and get those students IDs because if they don’t have it, they’re having to use the provisional process and the reasonable impediments," Raper said. "It just makes voting take that much longer, and also us processing provisional ballots takes a really long time too."

Raper said she encourages Orange County provisional voters, who are unsure of their eligibility or can't prove their status, to fill out a voter registration form and a reasonable impediment declaration form, which explains why they don't have an acceptable ID. Justifications for provisional voting include lack of photo ID due to religious objections, lost or damaged ID, inability to take time off from work to obtain an ID or a disability. 

Raper said if the Orange County Board of Elections finds proof of voter registration, the person's vote is counted. If the board is unable to find proof of registration, the vote would not be counted, but the registration form allows the voter to vote in the following election.

She said Orange County received 300 provisional ballots last election, and around 150 were approved. She said many denials were a result of voters’ misconception that voter registration is transferable from one county to another. 

When asked about voter ID outreach and education efforts in marginalized communities, Raper said the first step is identifying those communities.

“I don’t know where those communities exist, so if someone lets me know that there’s a need in a certain community, that’s when I can act on that need,” she said.

Raper said the Orange County Board of Elections Office in Hillsborough is the only site currently authorized to issue voter IDs, though more may be announced. She said the General Assembly did not designate funds to establish new distribution sites, and the Orange County Board of Elections has a five-person staff.

“I’m an advocate for my county, and I will certainly ensure that Orange County gets the appropriate amount of attention and publicity surrounding the voter ID laws,” she said.


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