The future of voter ID in North Carolina ultimately will be resolved by the courts. But pending lawsuits challenging its legality based on alleged racial discrimination haven’t changed the fact the photo identification mandate will begin statewide in three weeks. Starting with the early-voting period March 3, most every registered voter will have to show one of six types of qualifying IDs to cast a ballot in person, up through the March 15 primary election date. State Board of Elections director Kim Strach is confident the state’s first election under the mandate will avoid major troubles, citing training of election officials and a public relations campaign that includes radio and television ads and billboards. Voter guides are going out to more than 4 million households statewide.
“We’ve tried to prepare county boards and the public for this change that’s to come for 2016,” Strach said in an interview, adding election officials “want voters to have a positive experience in every election.”
Original voter ID legislation became law in 2013, but lawmakers delayed enforcement until 2016 to alert voters and give them the chance to obtain IDs, even for free. Changes made last June by the General Assembly allowed more people facing obstacles to get an ID to vote anyway if they fill out a form explaining why they don’t have one and provide other identification.
Hundreds of thousands of cards and letters also have been mailed to registered voters who potentially lack ID to help them get one. There are more than 6.4 million registered voters statewide.