North Carolina’s anti-voting bill is now a reality. As soon as it is signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory as expected, 40+ new provisions that make it harder to vote or open the door to more secret money in politics will become law – including dozens of provisions that were never discussed in a legislative committee. Most of the changes become effective on January 1, 2014. The voter photo ID requirements will take effect with the 2016 elections. The law is expected to be challenged in court. Here are the major changes to voting that will take place, with thanks to Democracy North Carolina for summarizing them. (You can download a hand-out about the bill here.)
EARLY VOTING – Early voting is just 10 days; the first week is cut. All sites in a county must be open the same times, except for the county elections office or its alternate. The total hours must equal at least the total hours the county provided in the similar election of 2010 or 2012 unless all local and state board members approve fewer hours.
NO SAME-DAY REGISTRATION –Voters must register at least 25 days before the election.
NO STRAIGHT PARTY VOTING – Straight-ticket voting is eliminated. Voters must mark their preferred candidate in each race on the ballot. Candidates will be listed in order of the party of the Governor.
NO OUT-OF-PRECINCT VOTING – Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct on Election Day will not count. Vote in your home precinct on Election Day.
MAIL-IN ABSENTEE VOTING – Absentee ballot requests must be on a form from the county elections board. (Groups can mass mail forms to their favorite voters.) The form asks for your ID number (from a DMV photo ID or last 4 digits on your Social Security card) or you may mail in one of these documents with your name and current address: a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or any government document. The elections office will then send you the ballot. Mail the completed ballot back in the envelope provided. It must have the voter’s signature; the signatures and addresses of two witnesses OR one notary public (who can’t charge a fee), and the name, address and signature of anyone assisting a voter unable to sign.
NO TEENAGE PRE-REGISTRATION – Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds ends. Also, Citizens Awareness Month and the required annual registration drive in high schools are eliminated (effective September 2013).
POLL HOURS – County elections boards may no longer order polls to stay open an extra hour due to problems. If there is a delay in opening or a problem, only the State Board of Elections may extend the closing time by an equal number of minutes.
REGISTRATION DRIVES – People doing voter registration may not be paid based on the number of completed forms they submit, but they may be paid for their time.
MORE POLL “OBSERVERS” – In addition to appointing two “observers” to monitor action inside each voting place, local political parties can appoint 10 more per county and put up to three in any polling place.
MORE CHALLENGES OF VOTERS – Any NC voter can challenge a voter as not being registered or violating another rule. On Election Day, a challenger must be from the voter’s county. The old law said any challenger must be from the voter’s precinct. These changes open the door to mass challenges and vigilantes causing trouble at the polls.
PHOTO ID REQUIREMENT – Starting in Jan. 2014, poll officials will ask voters for a photo ID but no photo ID is required to vote until Jan. 2016. The ID must bear a “reasonable resemblance” to you (poll officials must all agree it’s not you for the ID to fail). It must be one of these:
- NC drivers license, learner’s permit or provisional license.
- NC special identification card for non-drivers.
- US passport.
- US military ID or Veterans ID card.
- Enrollment card from a federally or NC recognized tribe.
- Out-of-state driver’s license but only for 90 days after the voter registers in North Carolina.
- NO student IDs are accepted.
The ID must not be expired, except for a voter over age 70 whose ID was current on their 70th birthday. The military and veterans IDs do not need an expiration date, but other IDs do. Voters can cast a provisional ballot, but it will only count if they bring an acceptable ID to the county board of elections by noon of the day before the election canvass.
Voters are exempt (1) who swear they have a religious objection to being photographed or (2) who use curbside voting because of their age or physical disability. Instead of a photo, these voters may show a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document with name and current address.
IDs AND DOCUMENTS – Voters who swear they don’t have an acceptable ID may apply for a free non-driver’s “special ID card” from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). They must be registered or register when they apply. To apply, voters must show the DMV a birth certificate (and if their name changed, maybe a marriage license), plus documents showing their residence. A NC county register of deeds must furnish free the birth certificate and marriage license, but that won’t help voters born out of state.