N.C. Senate unveils voter ID bill

Almost three months after the N.C. House passed a voter ID bill, the N.C. Senate Rules Committee rolled out a substitute version of that legislation at the conclusion of its meeting Thursday without taking any action on the measure.

The changed voter ID measure comes in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a pivotal component of the Voting Rights Act. The decision means that for now, North Carolina will no longer be required to win pre-approval from the federal government before enacting voting-related legislation.

Full text of the Senate’s update to the voter ID bill is online here (PDF).

Here are some key differences in the new Senate version of the voter ID bill:

Would not allow any student IDs. (The House plan would allow student IDs from state community colleges and universities, such as N.C. State and UNC Chapel Hill. Neither version would allow student IDs from private schools, such as Duke and Wake Forest.)

Further limits the types of identification that are acceptable. As opposed to the House bill, the Senate version would not allow an employee ID card, an identification card issued to a fireman, EMS, hospital employee or law enforcement officer, an ID issued by a unit of local government, or an ID issued for a government program of public assistance.

Would not allow expired photo ID for voters under age 70. (The House plan would accept ID that expired within 10 years of the election.)

Would allow unexpired drivers licenses issued by other states, but only if the person registered to vote in North Carolina within 90 days before the election. (The House version allows out-of-state IDs without the 90-day provision.)

Strikes the Voter Information Verification Advisory board, which the House version would establish to facilitate the implementation of the new photo ID requirement.

Here are some key similarities between the Senate and House versions:

The photo ID requirement would go into effect in 2016.

Voters without an acceptable photo ID would be able to obtain one at no cost to the voter.

Acceptable photo identification would include a valid drivers license or non-operators license, a military ID, a U.S. passport or tribal ID.

Photo ID that is valid on a voter’s 70th birthday would always be valid, regardless of its expiration date thereafter.

Voters who come to the polls without a valid photo ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot, but would then need to present a valid ID at their county board of elections office in order for their ballot to count.

Voters who are the victim of an officially declared natural disaster within 60 days of an election would not be required to show a photo ID to vote.

An exception to the photo ID requirement would be made for voters who have a “sincerely held religious objection to being photographed.”

Both versions would require voters requesting an absentee ballot to provide their drivers license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

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