Here's how voter ID laws could impact North Carolina elections

APRIL 7, 2022 — Charlotte, NC — WCNC-TV covered the voter ID situation in North Carolina and interviewed Pamela Pearson, VoteRiders’ National Voter ID Assistance Director, North Carolina Voter ID Coalition Coordinator and Deputy General Counsel.

Author: Chloe Leshner (WCNC)
Published: 4:19 PM EDT April 6, 2022

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina primary election is quickly approaching, it’s just over a month away on May 17. The most recent elections have come under a lot of scrutiny, leaving many people with questions about the voting process.

A hot topic here in the Tar Heel State is voter ID laws. Right now, those laws are in limbo and people do not need to show identification at the polls.

“The argument for a voter ID law is that voters are limited to voting once so we want to make sure it’s the person who’s eligible to vote, they are legally eligible to vote, and they only vote once,” Eric Heberlig, a professor of political science at UNC Charlotte said.

Courts in North Carolina found voter reform laws passed in 2018 were unconstitutional and at least for now, can’t be enforced.

“We’re kind of in limbo,” Heberlig said. “Those provisions are suspended, and we don’t have any clear idea of if the court would lift that suspension or impose some type of alternative on the state.”

Critics of the laws say there shouldn’t be bureaucratic barriers to people exercising their rights.

For the latest breaking news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.

“Voter ID laws can have a disproportionate effect on the type of people that don’t have easy access to the type of documentation the state requires,” Heberlig said. “It’s typically poorer people, minority citizens, elderly voters.”

Political experts say there likely won’t be much of an impact on the primary election in May, because not as many people participate. But there could be some major changes before the next general election.

VoteRiders, a national nonpartisan organization, works to educate people so they are prepared for the next election. Wednesday is the 10-year anniversary of the creation of the organization and to celebrate, the organization has made April a month of action.

VoteRiders is focusing on North Carolina during that time.

“We do voter education making people understand what voter ID is and what they need to do about it if they’re voting, and also that they’ll be confident,” Pam Pearson with VoteRider said. “That they won’t be confused [about] what the rules are, they won’t be worried that if they show up that they’ll get turned away and they’ll know that when they cast their ballot that their ballot will be counted.”

She works primarily to help connect people with the resources they need to get a state ID.

In North Carolina, it requires multiple documents, including a birth certificate, social security card and proof of residence. That, plus the time it takes, can make it an extremely difficult process for some.

“If you don’t have the technical access and the know-how about how to navigate through the systems, know what’s required in the particular state to get an id, it can be really daunting,” she said.

An ID is not required to register to vote in North Carolina and can be done in person at a county board of elections office. The deadline to register for the May 17 primary is April 22.

Another law around voter registration was a focus of the state courts recently. The law preventing voter registration for convicted felons who have served their time was ruled as discrimination. Despite that, the state board of elections has told county boards to not process those applications yet, leaving more than 50,000 people in limbo.

“We have many statewide races that are decided by less than 10,000 votes,” Heberlig said. “So, if you have 50,000 new voters, if they disproportionately vote for one candidate or the other, that certainly can affect the outcome in a polarized state like North Carolina where [a] small number of votes matter.”