The long fight over using student IDs to vote in North Carolina

Facing South,  October 22, 2019

"Lawmakers released an early draft of the voter ID requirements...students were among those expected to be most impacted. The measure initially banned students at the state's private colleges from using their student IDs to vote, though that provision was removed from the bill as it moved through the legislature.

However, the version that ultimately passed still presented challenges for both private and public schools. For example, it required that the photo used on the student ID be taken by the university itself, even though many schools allow students to submit their own photos for ID cards. It also mandated that universities submit an attestation letter under penalty of perjury that said the student IDs were issued following a verification of students' citizenship status, Social Security number, and birthdates.

Many North Carolina schools were unable to meet the requirements. Some schools did not even bother to apply with the state elections board by the March 2019 deadline because they knew they could not qualify. Of the 850 colleges, universities, state and local employers and tribal entities eligible to submit requests to use their IDs for voting, only about 80 did. While all of the 17 schools in the University of North Carolina system applied for approval, only five qualified: Appalachian State, Elizabeth City State, North Carolina Central, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

In response to the confusion and controversy surrounding the student ID requirements for voting, a bipartisan group of North Carolina state House members including two freshmen Democrats and two GOP leaders began working on a remedy earlier this year in the form of House Bill 646. It says the photo on the student ID no longer has to be taken by the school, which must instead detail the process used to attain it. It also strikes the mention of a penalty of perjury but requires the school to submit "documentation satisfactory to the State Board of Elections" that the requirements have been met. The measure passed the state House and Senate overwhelmingly and was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) in June. 

The law's deadlines for submitting that documentation are now looming. Schools that did not previously apply to have their student IDs qualify as voter ID have until Oct. 26 to do so, and the state elections board has until Nov. 1 to issue a ruling. Schools that previously applied but had their applications denied — including the 12 schools in the UNC system — have until Nov. 15 to resubmit their applications, and the board has until Dec. 1 to make a decision in those cases."




By Rebekah Barber 

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Hannah Piercey