Amendment to North Carolina Voting Laws Softens Photo ID Requirement

Jan 19, 2016


In the upcoming elections, North Carolina voters will need to show photo identification at the polls – a new requirement that’s harshly criticized by civil rights groups.  WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd reports a recent amendment to the voting laws will allow for some exceptions. 

In 2013, North Carolina’s legislature passed sweeping voting reforms, including a voter ID requirement.  But last year, lawmakers passed a softening provision called the Reasonable Impediment Declaration.  So now, if a voter is unable to obtain the required photo ID due to, say, a lack of transportation, disability, or illness, they can still cast a provisional ballot as long as they detail their reasonable impediment, whatever it may be.  Once the polls close, those provisional ballots are reviewed by the county Board of Elections, which determines whether the vote will be accepted as full, partial, or no count. Here’s New Hanover Elections Director Derek Bowens:

"Of course, the Board, whenever they review those, they have to review those in the light most favorable to the voter.  And the Board, for the most part, would move forward with the approval for those who have signed that reasonable impediment declaration."

But the North Carolina NAACP, which is challenging the state’s voting laws in court this month, doesn’t think the Reasonable Impediment Declaration is enough. Irving Joyner is legal counsel to the NC NAACP, and he says the concern is that the scope of the reasonable impediment exception may be interpreted differently by those counting the votes:

"So unless these provisional ballots are given the same validity as a regularly cast ballot, then those votes are in jeopardy. And the determination of which ones will actually get counted will vary from person to person, from county to county, from situation to situation, as people make that decision."

Even with the option of casting a provisional ballot, Director Bowens recommends that all voters who have photo identification bring it with them to the polls this March and November.