What will NC’s new voter ID, felony conviction rulings mean for Craven elections?

Exterior photo of Craven County Administration Building
Craven County Administration Building

A number of recent changes to North Carolina’s election laws will impact Craven County voters in upcoming local, state and federal races.

During a July 17 appearance before the Craven County Board of Commissioners, Craven County Director of Elections Susan Williams outlined a handful of decisions by the state Supreme Court that could have major implications for future elections. 

Voter ID

Voters will now be asked to show photo identification when voting in North Carolina.

In April the NC Supreme Court ruled that requiring voters to show photo ID before casting their ballots is not unconstitutional. The ruling in the case Holmes v. Moore reinstated a law that had hung in the balance since November 2018, when state voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring all voters to present photo ID before casting their ballot. 

Governor Roy Cooper subsequently vetoed Senate Bill 824, which would have made the amendment law. Cooper’s veto was then overridden by the General Assembly, leading voters to challenge the law in court. 

After a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court found that the law violated the state Constitution, the ruling was upheld by the NC Supreme Court in December 2022. 

The fate of photo ID in North Carolina took another turn after Republicans gained a majority in the Supreme Court and agreed to revisit the case, ultimately ruling in favor of the voter ID law.  

“We are confronted here with a simple question: does S.B. 824 violate the meaningful protections set forth in Article I, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution? Because it does not, we reverse and remand to the trial court for dismissal of this action with prejudice,” the court’s majority opinion reads.

According to the NC State Board of Elections, if a NC resident cannot show photo ID when voting in person, they can still vote by filling out an ID Exception Form. Absentee-by-mail voters can also fill out an ID Exception Form with their ballot if they are unable to include a copy of their photo ID in their ballot return envelope. 

If a voter does not have an acceptable photo ID, they can get one for free from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. Soon, voters will also be able to get free ID from their county board of elections. 

According to Williams, the Craven County Board of Elections office is waiting on instructions and the program needed to print the complimentary IDs for local residents. 

Acceptable forms of photo ID for voting purposes are:

-North Carolina driver’s license

-State ID from the NCDMV (also called “non-operator ID”)

-Driver’s license or non-driver ID from another state, District of Columbia or U.S. territory (only if voter registered in North Carolina within 90 days of the election)

-U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport card

-North Carolina voter photo ID card issued by a county board of elections (available soon)

-College or university student ID approved by the State Board of Elections

-State or local government or charter school employee ID approved by the State Board of Elections

-A voter 65 or older may use an expired form of acceptable ID if the ID was unexpired on their 65th birthday.

Any of the following, regardless of whether the ID contains an expiration or issuance date:

-Military or veterans ID card issued by the U.S. government

-Tribal enrollment card issued by a tribe recognized by the State or federal government

-ID card issued by an agency of the U.S. government or the State of North Carolina for a public assistance program.

For more information, visit ncsbe.gov/voting/voter-id.

Voting rights for felons

NC residents who have been convicted of a felony and are currently on probation, parole or other supervision must now complete their full sentence before they will be allowed to vote.  

In April the NC Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional for felons to be required to complete their sentence in full before they can legally cast a ballot. The ruling overturned a lower court decision that had struck down the state’s felony disenfranchisement law for voters who are no longer incarcerated. In that decision, a three-judge panel ruled that the state statute that denies the vote to people on probation, parole, or other supervision “discriminates against African Americans and denies everyone on supervision the fundamental right to vote.” 

The new Supreme Court decision effectively blocks an estimated 56,000 people from the ballot box after their right to vote had been restored by the lower court ruling in 2020.

According to Williams, the Craven County Board of Elections office has removed more than 140 residents serving felony sentences from its voting rolls and sent out letters to notify them of the change in their status. 

Last week, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a motion in U.S. District Court on behalf of plaintiffs who challenged the state felony voting law in September 2020. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to invalidate N.C. General Statute §163-275(5) and restore the voting rights of felons who are no longer incarcerated. 

The current state law makes it a Class I felony “For any person convicted of a crime which excludes the person from the right of suffrage, to vote at any primary or election without having been restored to the right of citizenship in due course and by the method provided by law.”

NC redistricting reversal

Williams said local election officials are also keeping a close eye on the impact from the NC Supreme Court’s reversal of its prior ruling in Harper v. Hall, which concerned the issue of redistricting and alleged gerrymandering following the 2020 census. 

The plaintiffs in the case argued that the redistricting maps exemplified “extreme partisan gerrymandering” and violated the North Carolina Constitution. 

The state high court has reversed its prior ruling in that case that required legislatures to redraw the districts that were originally enacted in 2021. The court ruled that partisan gerrymandering claims based on the state constitution cannot serve as the basis of a lawsuit in state court.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.