Sweeping voter bill adds photo ID

Jul. 29, 2013 @ 01:04 PM

Voting will be quite different starting in 2016 if changes the General Assembly made in an sweeping overhaul pass the scrutiny of the courts.Here’s an overview:

—Voter Identification: Voters must have an approved government-issued form of photo ID to vote in 2016. A state study estimated more than 300,000 registered voters lack driver’s licenses or other forms of state-issued ID, most of them elderly or low-income minorities. Elections directors across the state will be looking for specific instructions on which photo IDs to accept and for whom. 

“Not all people have a drivers license and some have an expired license,” said Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt. “A 70-year-old person may be able to vote with an expired license, but a younger person may not.”
Also valid will be free N.C. Department of Motor Vehicle-issued identification cards, U.S. passport, military or veteran ID card, tribal ID card or a driver’s license from another state -- if the voter registered within 90 days of the election. College-issued student IDs will not be accepted.
Republicans claimed the changes will prevent voter fraud, which they claim is widespread. Nonpartisan voting rights groups, Democrats and Libertarians say the true goal is suppressing voter turnout among the young, the old, the poor and minorities and that court challenges are possible.
—Straight-Ticket Voting:  Allowed since 1925, the voting shortcut was killed. Democrats are more likely to vote straight tickets.
— Presidential Primary: North Carolina will have an earlier stand-alone presidential primary, set more closely to follow South Carolina’s early primary vote. There would be a separate primary for other races in presidential election years.
“With possible primaries in March and May, that could make for a lot of work for us,” Collicutt said.
—Early voting:  The period will be shortened to 10 days, but the polls must be opened the same number of hours as in previous mid-term and presidential years.
“It will take a lot of work to work this out,” Collicutt said.
—Registration: The measure also ends same-day registration and voting so that voters must make any changes 25 days ahead of the election. 
“That’s the way it was before 2007,” Collicutt said. “I think people remember the old deadlines.”
A pre-registration program for those turning 18 by Election Day was killed.
—Paper Ballots: All ballots must be on paper by 2018.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling to halt enforcement of provisions of the Voting Right Act opened the way for the changes without  concern for having to obtain prior federal approval.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Voting Changes
Guilford County Board of Education: Partisan elections with eight districts instead of nine and one at-large seat instead of two. No referendum on the changes. The 2014 board elections will proceed as planned for two-year terms for five seats.

Statewide: Voter photo ID adopted, straight-ticket voting killed, same-day registration and voting killed.