In recent years, UNC students have been presented with many opportunities for political involvement. In 2019 alone, presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders visited campus to promote their campaigns.
However, some UNC voters may be put in a difficult situation during next year’s elections.
Last year, voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to vote in person. This could pose a problem for students who do not have a federally mandated driver's license or passport.
This past June, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 646. The bill outlines the criteria student and employee IDs for the UNC System must meet in order to qualify as legitimate voter identification. For UNC One Cards, this means the University must submit an approval form to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
The deadline for UNC to complete and submit the form is Nov. 15.
“If UNC misses that deadline, its students will not be able to use their valid One Cards to vote in the 2020 elections," Alana Edwards, president of UNC Young Democrats, said.
Should UNC choose to submit the form, it must be signed by either the chancellor, president or registrar and filed with sample images of all identification cards.
"The University is committed to supporting the ability of our students, faculty and staff to exercise their constitutional right to vote," according to a statement from UNC Media Relations. "We're working closely with the University System and the State Board of Elections to meet the November 15 deadline and we remain hopeful that our One Cards will be able to be used as voting identification."
Ariel Freedman, the undergraduate director of State and External Affairs for UNC Student Government, said the University was first presented the opportunity to register One Cards as voter IDs last semester. Student government worked with the One Card office to advocate for the necessity of the process and determine if One Cards would be able to qualify, Freedman said.
"Unfortunately, UNC could not apply because the picture upload system for One Cards was not standardized," Freedman said in an email.
Seventeen schools within the UNC System applied, Freedman said, and only five were approved.
“We were able to meet with Representative Russell, one of the co-sponsors of HB 646, who told us he was working to expand the measures that allow student IDs to be used as a voter ID,” Freedman said.
Despite the loosening of these requirements, the form the University must complete maintains certain demands in an effort to ensure that student identification cards are valid IDs.
The form now states that if the picture on the ID was not produced by the institution listed, it is up to that institution to be able to “certify in detail the process used by the university or college to ensure the photograph is that of the student to whom the identification card is issued.”
In addition, One Cards must be issued after enrollment and be backed by one or more methods of confirming the student’s identity, such as their social security number, citizenship status or birthdate.
“If student One Cards aren’t considered valid voter IDs, I think that would be an unnecessary barrier to the ballot box and could potentially suppress student turnout,” Edwards said.
In order to participate in same-day registration at one-stop early voting, students currently must provide a form of identification showing their name and address.
“Students already have to overcome several barriers in order to participate in elections,” Freedman said. “UNC-Chapel Hill students deserve to have their voices heard in every election.”
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