Rep. Ray Russell

Ray Russell

RALEIGH — Post-secondary institutions will now have an easier pathway to have their identification cards be used as voter identification cards, according to a new law signed by Gov. Roy Cooper on June 3.

State Law 2019-22 passed the N.C. House with a 100-9 vote on April 11, the N.C. Senate 45-0 on May 23 with some minor modifications, then was concurred with in the N.C. House before going to the governor on May 28.

S.L. 2019-22 says the photo that appears on a post-secondary institution’s ID card can be obtained by the university, college or its agents. The image must be “a frontal image that includes the student’s face and represents a clear, accurate likeness of the student to whom the identification card is issued” to be accepted as a voter ID. For photos not taken by the university or college or its agents, the institution must explain in detail the process used to ensure the photo is that of the student.

Previously, a voter ID bill passed in December 2018 stated that the post-secondary institution must take the photo that goes on their card in order to be accepted as valid voter ID at the polls.

S.L. 2019-22 takes out language that requires a university or college to submit an attestation letter under penalty of perjury that its IDs can be used as a valid identification card at the poll. The new language states that the university or college must submit “documentation satisfactory” to the N.C. State Board of Elections that the requirements have knowingly been met.

A new requirement included in the law is that a college or university identification card issued after Jan. 1, 2021, must contain a date of expiration.

An addition to the law put in by the N.C. Senate directs the N.C. State Board of Elections to put sample IDs on its website to show what could be accepted as a valid voter ID.

Further, the bill allows the NCSBE to establish a schedule for identification card submissions and approvals for each two-year period. The previous bill did not set a roadmap for future approvals beyond 2019.

The new deadline for post-secondary institutions, local governments, tribes and other municipal governing bodies to apply for voter ID clearance is Nov. 1. Previously, the deadline was March 15, which left universities and municipal governments scrambling after the law was passed less than four months prior.

A total of 72 organizations, including Appalachian State University, were approved in March by the NCSBE. Out of the organizations denied, most were post-secondary institutions. Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, based in Lenoir with a campus in Watauga County, did not apply for their identification cards to be eligible.

Voter ID was enacted in December 2018, following roughly 55 percent of voters in N.C. approving a state constitutional amendment on the matter in November 2018.

A provision in S.L. 2019-22 allows county election boards to adjust one-stop early voting hours in odd-numbered election years, which are when a number of municipal elections are held.

Watauga Board of Elections Executive Director Matt Snyder said adjusting the hours of one-stop early voting from the previously mandated 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. timeframe to hours consistent with the elections office, which is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is a possibility the board could consider at its June 11 meeting.

On April 9, the five-member Watauga County Board of Elections unanimously approved the 2019 municipal election one-stop early voting plan. Sites will be established at ASU Plemmons Student Union and the Watauga County Board of Elections office. The voting period will run Oct. 16-18, 21-25 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1. In addition to Boone, ballots will be provided for Blowing Rock, Seven Devils and Beech Mountain. Voting will end Friday, Nov. 1, in accordance with state statute.

Currently, the sites are slated to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on those days.

Prior to a 2018 law governing that all one-stop early voting sites in a county be open concurrently and for 12 hours a day, the county election boards could regulate when certain sites were open.

Snyder said the law would appear to have cost savings, with the potential for the one-stop sites to be open fewer hours out of the day.

“Traditionally, we’ve been open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Snyder said of one-stop sites prior to 2018.

The 12-hour mandate in 2018 caused Snyder to request and receive an additional $20,392 on top of the original one-stop early voting budget of $40,000 to keep all six Watauga one-stop sites open concurrently.

Russell previously called the 2018 12-hour one-stop election days a “one-size fits all plan” that was “exhausting” for workers.

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