Alberta Currie, the great-granddaughter of slaves, was born in a farmhouse surrounded by tobacco and cotton fields. Her mother, Willie Pearl, gave birth with the assistance of a midwife. No birth certificate was issued; a birth announcement was handwritten into the Currie family Bible. Today, 78 years later, that absence of official documentation may force Currie to sit out an election for the first time since 1956. Under a restrictive new voter ID law in North Carolina, a state-issued photo ID is required for voting as of the 2016 election. Voters can obtain a state-issued ID at no cost. But that requires getting to a state driver’s license office, waiting in line — and providing documents that many voters lack, among them an original or certified birth certificate and original Social Security card. The law’s Republican backers say the new measure combats voter fraud and ensures voting integrity. Civil rights groups contend that the bureaucratic obstacles are a part of a blatant attempt to make it difficult for Democratic-leaning voters — particularly African Americans, students and the elderly — to obtain IDs needed to vote.
Because obtaining a voter ID requires time, effort and patience, civil rights groups worry that many eligible voters will give up in frustration or never bother. And even if they do provide documents, they must wait 10 to 20 days to receive their IDs by mail.
Currie has spent three years trying, without success, to persuade officials to issue her a birth certificate. Now, because of the new law, she must locate several other documents, a daunting challenge for someone her age.
Currie no longer has her original Social Security card, for instance. Among the documents needed to obtain a replacement card are a state-issued ID card and an original birth certificate.
“They’re trying to make it as hard as possible for people like me to vote,” Currie said at her brick home in the red clay farming country of southern-central North Carolina. “It takes two IDs to get the ID I need, but how can I get it if I don’t have those two IDs?”