State elections board unveils free voter ID details as federal lawsuit hits deadline | Eastern North Carolina Now

The North Carolina State Board of Elections unveiled plans for providing free photo voter identification cards at county boards of elections.

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is CJ Staff.

    The North Carolina State Board of Elections released its plan Wednesday to provide free voter identification cards for voters who need them. The state's new voter ID requirement takes effect for this year's municipal elections.

    "Registered voters who do not have an acceptable identification card for voting in North Carolina can now go to their county board of elections office to get a free ID," the NCSBE announced in a news release Wednesday.

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    Information about free IDs arrived as ID critics faced a deadline Wednesday to explain their plan for pursuing a five-year-old federal lawsuit.

    "Most voters have a North Carolina driver's license, which is an acceptable form of photo ID for voting," according to the NCSBE news release. "Those voters do not need to obtain a separate ID from their county board. Other common forms of acceptable ID include military or veterans ID cards issued by the federal government, and college student and public employer ID cards that the State Board approved for use in voting."

    Those who lack an approved ID can head to their county elections office. "No special documents are needed. Voters will simply provide their name, date of birth, and the last four digits of their Social Security number, and have their photo taken," the release explained.

    "In most counties, voters will be able to get an ID printed and given to them on the spot," according to the release. In other counties, voters can pick up the ID at a later date or have it mailed to them.

    The free ID will feature the voter's photo, name, and registration number. It will last for 10 years. County elections boards can issue the IDs during normal business hours on most days. No IDs are available during "the period following the last day of early voting through Election Day," according to the release.

    "State Board staff has worked diligently with the county boards of elections over the past couple of months to get the necessary software and hardware in place for ID printing," said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

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    Free IDs are also available from the NC Division of Motor Vehicles.

    Wednesday marked a court-imposed deadline for ID critics to submit a plan for additional discovery in a 2018 federal lawsuit challenging voter ID. That suit has remained in limbo since December 2021.

    "The original close of fact discovery in this case was May 15, 2020, a deadline established in anticipation of a trial date six months later, in January 2021," wrote lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the federal case. "Due to Legislative Intervenors seeking to intervene in this case, and the pending State Court challenge to the same law, this trial was postponed twice; and it has now been more than three years since the original close of discovery."

    Voter ID opponents seek additional information about the 2018 law, which started as Senate Bill 824. The request for more information includes documents related to the Holmes v. Moore state voter ID lawsuit.

    "Plaintiffs seek the documents already produced in the Holmes Litigation and limited supplemental discovery regarding the present impact of S.B. 824, particularly on Black and Latino North Carolinians; and information on how S.B. 824 is being implemented for the 2023 municipal elections and beyond," according to the court filing. "This information could not have been obtained during the original discovery period despite Plaintiffs' diligence and is highly relevant to Plaintiffs' legal challenges to S.B. 824."

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    A ruling from the NC Supreme Court in April cleared the way for voter ID to take effect for this year's elections. Previous state court rulings had blocked the ID law the General Assembly approved in 2018. Voters approved a constitutional amendment that same year to place a photo ID requirement in the state constitution.

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