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NC county boards of elections offer free voter identification for November elections

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DTH Photo Illustration. Many assume that they must have a photo ID to vote, but this is not the case.

County board of election offices across the state will now offer free photo identification for voting, according to an Aug. 2 press release.

The county office will collect the voter's name, date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security number to issue the ID. This development follows the N.C. Supreme Court’s decision in April to reintroduce an ID requirement to vote in North Carolina.

Kamaria E. Lawrence, a regional managing organizer for Democracy North Carolina, said she is concerned about a change in voting requirements.

“We are here to remove barriers to the ballot for people, specifically the Black and brown communities,” Lawrence said. “But really, we want every single person who wishes to vote to be able to vote.”

The photo ID requirement will be mandated for Orange County residents for the first time since 2016 in this year’s upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections, and it also applies to absentee ballots. Voters must attach a photocopy of their ID to their mail-in ballot for it to be counted.

Chris Cooper, a professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University, said he is glad the requirement will be implemented during an odd election year before the 2024 nationwide election.

“I think we will be able to tease out what the effects are much better this year, so we will know what to expect in 2024,” he said.

Voters can submit an ID exception form while casting their ballot if they have a reasonable impediment to showing photo ID, a religious objection to being photographed or have been a victim of a natural disaster within the last 100 days, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Cooper said while research on voter ID requirements shows mixed results on turnout in election cycles, there is no question the law introduces a barrier.

Orange County Board of Elections chair Jamie Cox said any time there is a change in election requirements, there is a risk of creating confusion among voters.

Lawrence said, even with ID exceptions and free resources available, the presence of an ID requirement is still a deterrent when people do not receive the proper information.

“People will remember the negative longer than the positive, unfortunately,” she said.

She also said other logistical barriers like work hours, transportation and inflation will continue to pose challenges for people who want to access these services.

But, this service will open up access to people in more rural areas. Seventeen of North Carolina’s 100 counties lack a DMV, which was the sole provider of a free, non-driver photo ID before the state board's announcement.

Cox said the additional step of having to present an ID may cause confusion, but good communication is important.

“We have an excellent professional staff that does a fantastic job of communicating not only directly with voters, but with other stakeholders in the community,” he said.

Cooper said free ID services are important and can have a positive impact, but only if people know about them.

“I think the real challenge for boards of elections and anybody who wants higher turnout is going to be letting the people know about all this,” he said. “This is a big change in North Carolina.”

@OliviaGschwind

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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