The North Carolina Board of Elections is pushing ahead with proposed rules to implement the state’s new voter ID law even as the constitutionality of its new elections laws including voter ID will be argued in state and federal courts this summer.
The law, which is scheduled to take effect starting in 2016, will require North Carolina voters to show an unexpired, government-issued photo ID before casting their ballots. The rules the state board of elections is currently reviewing will be used to determine if a photo ID bears a “reasonable resemblance” to a voter.
Earlier this week, a crowd of about 100 people attended the first of nine public hearings that will be held across the state this month to allow the public the chance to comment on the proposed rules.
“I want to commend the board for drafting rules that are as fair as possible to voters, given the constraints of a law that has the potential and perhaps the intent to disenfranchise voters,” said Victoria Shea, a resident of Chatham County.
Shay was one of more than 30 people who addressed the board in Raleigh about concerns they have about the rules and the training that will be given to poll workers who will be the first people responsible for checking the IDs.
The law approved eight categories of ID cards, including U.S. passports, North Carolina driver’s licenses and military IDs. The State Board of Elections’ rules will govern what voting officials can and cannot take into account when determining if the photo and name on the ID “reasonably resemble” the person presenting to vote.
According to the proposed rules, perceived differences on an ID, such as changes due to a medical condition, hairstyles or weight, won’t be considered. And if the name on the ID is “substantially equivalent” to the name in the voting records, it will be accepted. That rule protects voters who have changed their name, use a variation of their name or have more than one last name.
“Often a woman’s maiden name is on the voter roll and her married name on her driver’s license,” said Adam Sotak, the statewide campaigns organizer for Democracy North Carolina, which is a voter advocacy group.
If the state mandated the name listed on the ID to perfectly match the voting records, almost 100,000 voters would be unable to cast a ballot, Board spokesman Josh Lawson said. Eighty-seven percent of those affected would have been women.
The state anticipates most voters to use their driver’s license as an ID at the polls, Lawson said. The Board of Elections compared voting record data and Division of Motor Vehicle data to study how voters could be affected by certain rules.
The Board of Elections considered mandating that the address on the ID match the address listed on voting records. The board decided against including an address-match rule when their studies showed that more than one in 10 voters would be denied the ability to vote by such a rule, Lawson said. Voters still must vote within their correct precinct.
If an election official doubts an ID, the three precinct judges would step in. They must unanimously agree that the person doesn’t reasonably resemble the ID card before the person is not allowed to vote with a regular ballot.
Someone who doesn’t present an approved ID could cast a provisional ballot, but would have to return to an elections office with an ID for the vote to count.
Tonia Pridgen, a Wake County poll worker, suggested counties hire more poll workers to keep lines moving. She said she worried her half-day training wouldn’t be enough to handle the disagreements that will come up at the polls.
“In training, I think they need to give you the skills to deal with that emotion,” she said.