North Carolina legislature passes exception to photo ID requirement

In a last-minute change to a bill in while in conference committee, North Carolina lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a provision that will allow the state’s voters who do not have a photo ID to sign an affidavit and present alternate forms of identification in order to cast ballots. Per WRAL:

Under the new bill, voters would be able to swear that they could not obtain photo ID because of eight broad reasons, including “lack of transportation,” “work schedule” and “family responsibilities.” Such a voter would have to present alternative forms of ID, such as a utility bill or the last four digits of their Social Security number and birth date.

If signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory — a big if — it would mark a small step back in what had been a steady advance of voter restrictions since Republicans took control of the state’s government in 2010.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, via James Willamor / Flickr

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, via James Willamor / Flickr

Neither the House nor the Senate version of the bill, which pertains to improving technology for the state’s absentee balloting system, included the photo ID exception, which makes its inclusion abnormal. Normally, only provisions included in at least one version of the bill can be considered in conference committee. Democrats in the legislature expressed frustration and skepticism at the timing of the amendment’s insertion, but, as House Minority Leader Larry Hall (D – Durham) said, “we did not risk having another election without some relief for voters under the current oppressive Voter ID law.”

North Carolina’s photo ID law was originally passed in 2013, but included a two year delay. As Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said yesterday, that delay allowed for feedback and public reaction to the law. It’s safe to say that the feedback has not been positive. According to House Elections Committee Chair David Lewis (R – Harnett), the idea to allow an affidavit came from public comment during that delay.

Of course, North Carolina Republicans might not have the purest motives for approving this exception. North Carolina’s voting restrictions and other electoral irregularities are the subject of numerous lawsuits, and allowing for an alternate form of identification will likely be used to defend the law as lacking discriminatory intent. Of course, the state’s myriad voting restrictions have already been shown to have racially disproportionate effects.

And if you’re willing to allow for non-photo exceptions to your photo ID law, then what was the point of requiring a photo ID in the first place?

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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13 Responses to “North Carolina legislature passes exception to photo ID requirement”

  1. aliomadison says:


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  2. Denver Catboy says:

    I’ve taken some interest in this topic. Political cognition would go a long way to explaining how divisive politics is. And it touches so many areas. Neuroscience. Psychology. Sociology. Political Science. And with the advances we’re making in Artificial Intelligence, pretty soon, I’m thinking Computer Science will start becoming relevant as well.

    They’ve done some interesting studies on how political cognition maps to other aspects in consciousness, and while the field is still in its infancy, there have been some quite interesting results — tending conservative correlating with high disgust and threat responses. While it’s not my field (computers are), I’m paying attention to this as they continue to flesh it out.

  3. ComradeRutherford says:

    “Under the new bill, voters would be able to swear that” … they will vote Republican.

  4. DoverBill says:

    Why would any state intentionally back off laws to make the election process more fair and avoid cheating?

    Unless, of course, they weren’t to start with?

  5. 2karmanot says:


  6. Jon Green says:

    Thanks :)

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Jon, your articles are just superb and stimulating, not to mention your academic snark is second to none! :-)

  8. 2karmanot says:

    “Remember, we’re talking here about people who, by definition” love their secessionist racist flag. In North Carolina you can take down the flag from the state capital, but you can’t remove treason from the dark soul of the South.

  9. BeccaM says:

    This Voter ID ‘exception’ is a Trojan Horse — and it makes people jump through hoops that make the poll tax of having to obtain a photo ID look simple by comparison.

    You know what has to happen for someone to vote, for anyone lacking a photo ID? They have to get themselves to their county’s Board of Elections headquarters (assuming they can find it) no later than the Saturday before the election, present their proof in person, and in doing so request an absentee ballot. In practice, this bars the person from voting on voting day along with everyone else.

    Remember, we’re talking here about people who, by definition, do not have a driver’s license already. Somehow they’re expected to get themselves to their county’s Board of Elections HQ, during normal business hours, and do so the week before an election — each and every time they vote. For them, there’s no heading down to their local polling site to cast their ballot.

    Basically, it’s a ‘separate but equal’ (but not really equal at all) voting system.

    All this measure does is replace the provisional ballot with an absentee one — and then make it significantly harder to cast it. Since North Carolina has kept all of its other voter suppression measures — including cutbacks on early voting, fewer polling locations and machines, banning same-day registration — this ‘fix’ here is really no improvement.

  10. Jon Green says:

    Political cognition is the study of how the brain processes political information. You get high honors in it by spending a year writing a ~250-page thesis about the intersection of the field with democratic theory and then defending it to an outside examiner.

  11. emjayay says:

    Just wondering: what the hell is Political Cognition and how do you get high honors in it?

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