New voting laws could hamper casting ballot
The North Carolina Constitution mandates the requirements for casting a ballot; the voter must be a citizen. Period.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed major changes to voting and campaign laws including the requirement that beginning in 2016, voters will have to show a photo ID. The premise for the change in the law was that it will cut down on voter fraud, but the State Board of Elections reported that it was rare that a voter attempted to vote under an assumed name. Opponents of the requirement noted that the 9-11 terrorists all had drivers licenses that would be accepted under the new law. And a picture ID is not required by the NC Constitution, nor does it prove citizenship. The ID issue is currently before the court which, at press time, hadn’t ruled on the requirement’s legality. The number of voters without the required IDs is estimated to be between 200,000 to 300,000.
Under the new law, beginning in 2016, acceptable forms of ID include :
- North Carolina driver’s license
- North Carolina special identification card
- U.S. passport
- U.S. military identification card, not expired or issued within eight years of the date it is presented.
- Veterans identification card, not expired or issued within eight years of the date it is presented.
- A tribal enrollment card issued by a federally-recognized tribe or a tribe recognized by the state, not expired or issued within eight years of the date it is presented.
- A driver’s license or special identification card issued by another state, the District of Columbia or a US territory if the voter registered 90 days or fewer before the election.
- Voters over the age of 70 can show any acceptable forms of identification, even if expired, as long as the ID was current as of the voter’s 70th birthday.
Those with religious objections to having their picture taken and those eligible to use curbside voting are excepted..
The new laws state that IDs issued by the state-run colleges and universities will not be an acceptable ID.
The Division of Motor Vehicles will issue a special identification card free to individuals who don’t have an acceptable photo ID. Birth and marriage certificates will be provided at no cost for those who need them to apply for the free ID.
Mail-in Absentee Voting
Beginning this year, 2014, to obtain an absentee ballot, voters or a relative must make their request on a form furnished by the State Board of Elections. The form requires:
- Voter’s name and address.
- If someone other than the voter is requesting the ballot, the name and address of that person.
- The address to which the ballot is be mailed, if different from the voter’s residential address.
- The voter’s date of birth.
- The voter’s driver’s license number, special ID card number or last four digits of his or her Social Security number. If the voter doesn’t have any of those numbers, he or she may include documents such as bank statements, pay stubs or utility bills with the request.
- The signature of the person requesting the application.
Voters are required to complete the absentee ballot in the presence of two voters who are at least 18 and not a candidate or employee of certain adult care homes. Both individuals must sign as witnesses. In lieu of two witnesses, the voter can have the ballot notarized. County boards of election have voter assistance teams to help residents of hospitals, nursing homes and other group facilities who do not have close relatives or legal guardians to help them fill out the ballot.
This year, 2014, the new law shortens the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days, from the second Thursday before the election to no later than 1 pm on the Saturday before Election Day. Although fewer days, counties are required to offer the same number of early voting hours as were available in 2010 mid-term elections. To satisfy this requirement, Dare County Board of Elections has added the Pitt Center in Southern Shores as an additional early voting site.
The new law removed the high school civics program that allowed 16- and 17-year olds to preregister so that their names were added to the voter rolls when they turned 18.
The law canceled the annual state-sponsored voter registration drive. Other organizations may still hold voter registration drives, but cannot compensate workers based on the number of registration forms they collect.
Changes at the polls
In 2018, computerized touch-screen voting machines will be abolished and only systems that generate a paper ballot or a paper record by which voters may verify their votes before casting them will be allowed.
Straight-party voting has been eliminated. Voters must make a mark beside each candidate for whom they are voting. The order of candidates in each race is determined by the party of the governor. This year, 2014, all Republican candidates’ names will appear first in each race.
Ballots will not be counted if the voter is voting in the wrong precinct.
The State Board of Elections will determine whether to allow a poll to remain open extra time equal to whatever time was lost due to a disruption. The time a poll closes is important because any voter in line at that time may still vote, even if it is much later due to congestion.
County party chairmen may now appoint 10 at-large election observers for each polling place in addition to two observers per polling place already allowed by law. Under the new rules, those observers will be given more freedom to move about the precinct, including the ability to closely monitor how election officials check in each voter.
The law now states that any voter in the state may challenge the registration of another voter anywhere in the state if it is not a primary or general Election Day. On Election Day, a voter may challenge the right of another person to vote if they are from the same county. Challenges can be on a number of grounds, including that the person does not live at the address reflected on his or her voter registration, that he or she has already voted or, in the case of a partisan primary, that he or she belongs to another party.
Beginning in 2016, the state will hold its presidential primaries earlier in the year if South Carolina chooses to hold its presidential primary before March 15. The primaries for both parties will be held on the Tuesday after the first South Carolina presidential primary that year.
When a U.S. senator for any reason leaves office before the end of his or her term, the governor must now pick a replacement who is a registered voter of the same party as that of whom is being replaced.
Cities, counties and other local governments can call special elections for reasons such as issuing bonds, holding alcoholic beverage referendums or approving tax increases but now those may be held only during mid-term elections.
The new law requires that candidates who decide not to run withdraw prior to the close of business on the third business day prior to the close of filing.