Absentee Ballots Included in Bipartisan Voter ID Bill Approved by N.C. House

State Board of Elections would establish absentee voter ID rules by 2020

Raleigh, N.C. – The state House of Representatives approved bipartisan enabling legislation on Wednesday to implement a constitutional amendment approved by voters that requires a photo ID to participate in North Carolina elections.  Lawmakers included absentee ballots in the proposal.

Senate Bill 824 Implementation of Voter ID/Const. Amendment is sponsored by two Republicans and one Democrat and allows a broad range of photo IDs to qualify for North Carolina voters.

The legislation provides for free state-issued IDs and allows poll workers to accept passports, student IDs, military & veteran IDs, voter cards, Native American tribal enrollment cards, as well as accommodations for religious objectors and people facing reasonable impediments to obtaining a photo ID.

An amendment to S.B. 824 also requires the State Board of Elections to implement rules for verifying absentee ballots in a more secure manner consistent with in-person photo ID requirements, including the option to complete an affidavit asserting a reasonable impediment to obtaining a qualifying identification.

The bill requires the state elections board to establish temporary voter ID rules for absentee ballots by July 2019 and permanent rules by January 2020.

“Growing concern for the integrity of our elections crosses partisan lines in North Carolina and across the nation,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). “The people have spoken in support of securing the ballot to ensure every vote counts, and today’s legislation conforms our state to 34 others that have some form of voter ID law.”   

In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly made standardized absentee ballot applications available online while adding requirements that voters include the last four digits of their social security number or driver’s license number on the application.

The 2013 law also required either two witness signatures or a notarization for completed absentee ballots to be accepted by North Carolina elections officials.

North Carolina is the last state in the Southeast not to have any form of voter ID law.

“Voter ID is simply a commonsense measure to make that sure when it comes to voting, the person who goes to vote is who they say they are,” Moore said on the floor of the state House during debate. “This guarantees that one of the most precious rights that we have – the right to vote – is maintained, protected, and expanded, and at the same time safeguards are in place to eliminate the chance of fraud.”

Public polling consistently shows an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians, regardless of partisan affiliation, race or gender, support voter ID.

The state House approved a series of amendments to the legislation this week, including adding a nearly $3 million appropriation to help counties implement the proposal.

“The intent was to make this enabling legislation as expansive as we could in response to the decision of North Carolinians to approve voter ID in our state constitution,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), chairman of the House Committee on Elections and Ethics.

Rep. Lewis also addressed the developing absentee ballot controversy in the state’s 9th Congressional District:

“The situation occurring in southeastern North Carolina right now is an embarrassment and an impediment to the integrity of our entire elections system,” Lewis said.  “I believe that this bill does start, it’s an important first step, in making sure problems like that don’t arise again.”

“It provides for a smooth roll out of an improved system of verifying that votes by mail are in-fact cast by folks who asked for and have been sent the ballot.” 

S.B. 824 is scheduled to receive its final vote in the state House of Representatives on Thursday.