Nearly two weeks before a federal trial is set to begin on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID rule and other election law changes made in 2013, the General Assembly has changed the rules. The N.C. Senate voted 44-2 Thursday to soften voter ID requirements set to go into effect next year, approving legislation that allows voters without photo IDs to cast provisional ballots. The House also approved the bill a few hours later in a 104-3 vote, sending it to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. The bill, similar to a South Carolina law that was allowed to take effect in 2013, sets up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID.
Voters using the form would provide their date of birth or the last four digits of their Social Security number, or show a voter registration card to prove their identity.
“One of the things we’ve been doing over the past two years is getting feedback,” Senate leader Phil Berger said. “So what that provision represents is some of the feedback to try to make sure everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote and have their vote count.” The state’s photo ID requirement is set to take effect in 2016.