With a primary election less than four months away, North Carolina officials are scrambling to get ready for a controversial state law requiring photo IDs at the polls, even as a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality remains unresolved. Voting rights advocates fear the changes in how the state’s elections are conducted will create confusion among voters and suppress turnout. The ID requirement, which state lawmakers watered down this past summer, is just one of a number of revisions voters will have to contend with. “If you haven’t voted since the last presidential election, you’re going to be in for a shock when you go in, because you’re not going to know what to expect,” says Sarah Zambon, an attorney who serves on the board of the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County. “There’s a lot of misinformation about voter ID, which has an intimidation effect on voters, especially going into a presidential election without enough education around this topic. There’s a lot of confusion about what counts and what doesn’t count.”
The sweeping 2013 Voter Information Verification Act required voters to present one of six types of photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Residents who didn’t have one could obtain a free photo ID through the state Division of Motor Vehicles, but Zambon, who’s organized educational forums on voter ID and other election laws, believes the documentation required to obtain a free ID is excessive. “For somebody who has transportation problems or physical limitations or income problems, it’s going to be harder, even though the ID itself is free,” she points out.
The 2013 law also scaled back the number of days of early voting, ended the practice of registering and voting on the same day, prohibited voting outside of the precinct where the voter is registered, and ended preregistration programs for 16- and 17-year-ol