After a decade of false starts — and millions of dollars spent fighting over the issue at the ballot box and in the courtroom — North Carolina voters are now required to show photo identification to cast a ballot in person.
The new voter ID requirement is a victory for conservatives. They’ve pushed for stricter voting laws, saying rules like voter ID are needed to improve voters’ faith that elections aren’t being rigged. Such concerns have skyrocketed among Republicans in recent years due to former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
It’s also a setback for progressives and civil rights activists. They say the law isn’t actually intended to fight voter fraud, which is rare already. Instead, they say, it’s being put in place to make voting harder for poor people, minorities and college students — all of whom tend to support Democrats.
“Five years ago, North Carolinians made it clear that they supported enshrining in our constitution a requirement to show a photo ID to vote,” said Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, a chairman of the state senate’s election law committee. “Since then, far-left activists and their allies in the executive branch have tried everything to stop this commonsense measure from becoming a reality.”
North Carolina’s first attempt at voter ID, in 2013, was ruled unconstitutional — one piece of a broad set of election law changes that federal courts found Republican lawmakers had written to intentionally discriminate against Black voters.
State lawmakers tried again in 2018, as Newton referenced, asking voters to add an ID requirement to the state constitution. Voters agreed, and the voter ID amendment passed in 2018 with 55% support. But it had been held up in court. Then, earlier this year, the North Carolina Supreme Court signed off on voter ID, reversing the court’s own decision from just a few months prior that had found voter ID to be racially discriminatory and unconstitutional.
That judicial flip-flop coincided with the elected Supreme Court’s majority shifting from Democrats to Republicans. It allowed voter ID rules to go into place starting Thursday, when the first city council races of 2023 began….
Although Republicans have now won the main state-level lawsuit against voter ID, there’s still a federal lawsuit moving forward, filed by the NAACP and other civil rights groups. And more could be filed if problems arise now that voter ID is actually being used.
Irving Joyner, a professor at North Carolina Central University’s law school and longtime NAACP attorney, said they’re hoping to see things move faster in their federal lawsuit now that the 2024 elections are imminent. The two sides are currently fighting over what evidence should be allowed at trial, but court records indicate that a ruling should be made soon.
Once that’s settled, the next fight could be over when to hold the trial — a consequential decision. If the NAACP wins and voter ID is ruled unconstitutional yet again, it would matter a great deal whether that ruling comes before or after next November’s presidential election.
“We have sought to provide the judge with a schedule that will get us into trial in the early part of 2024 to give the judge plenty of time to consider the evidence that we are presenting,” Joyner said. “… But you never know. The state is trying to string it along, out until after the 2024 election.”
Center for Public Integrity has this story, part of its series on state high courts, tracing the state’s long-running fights over voting. Spoiler alert: “The North Carolina Supreme Court released its opinions in the redistricting, voter ID and felony disenfranchisement cases on the same day: April 28. In each case, the new majority handed a victory to Republicans in the legislature in a 5-2 ruling split along party lines.”
To get to the ballot box, voters need to keep in mind changes made to voter ID laws last year, in a late-night legislative move approved by Gov. Mike DeWine at the beginning of 2023.
Those changes, made through House Bill 458, mean different identification allowed at the polls, and limits to the absentee ballot dates….
Ironically, HB 458’s original intent was to eliminate most August elections, a GOP-supported measure back when the bill was passed due to the cost of an extra primary and the historically low turnout.
Since then, Republicans have backtracked, re-implementing the August election specifically for the purpose of Issue 1, the measure to require citizen-initiated ballot measures to have signatures in all 88 counties in the state and 60% voter approval.
AP: “The legislation, which resulted from the voter-approved Proposal 2, establishes a website for voters to track when their ballots are received and counted, and requires at least nine days of early voting before each statewide and federal election. Voters can also now fix clerical errors on their ballots and use U.S. passports, tribal photo ID cards, military ID cards or student ID cards to identify themselves when they show up to cast ballots.”
North Carolina lawmakers are considering not only a spate of new election restrictions but also a major overhaul of state and county-level election boards, alarming advocates who say some of the proposals could grind the state’s democratic apparatus to a halt.
The changes would restrict same-day registration and mail-in voting. They would also give new powers to the state Legislature, where Republican lawmakers have been emboldened by a new veto-proof majority, along with a new Republican majority on the state Supreme Court.
The three bills, which could be considered in House committee hearings as early as this week, come as North Carolina begins to institute new voter ID rules. The state Supreme Court had previously declared the photo ID requirements unconstitutional, but the new Republican majority reversed that decision earlier this year, allowing the law to be enacted.
From the Idaho Capital Sun: “A new Idaho voter registration law that took effect July 1 requires voters to prove their identity and residency when registering to vote, no matter how they register…. But a Boise-based youth voter advocacy group called Babe Vote announced less than a week after the new law took effect that it was suspending voter registration efforts and filed an injunction in Ada County District Court seeking to halt enforcement of the new law.”
From the Guardian: “Ministers have faced renewed accusations that the plan to impose mandatory photo ID for voting is a waste of time and resources, after statistics showed there was not a single proven case of in-person voter impersonation last year.”
In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, many American state governments implemented voter identification (ID) laws for elections held in their states. These laws, which commonly mandate photo ID and/or require significant effort by voters lacking ID, sparked an ongoing national debate over the tension between election security and access in a democratic society. The laws’ proponents—primarily politicians in the Republican Party—claim that they prevent voter fraud, while Democratic opponents denounce the disproportionate burden they place on historically disadvantaged groups such as the poor and people of color. While these positions may reflect sincerely held beliefs, they also align with the political parties’ rational electoral strategies because the groups most likely to be disenfranchised by the laws tend to support Democratic candidates. Are these partisan views on the impact of voter ID correct? Existing research focuses on how voter ID laws affect voter turnout and fraud. But the extent to which they produce observable electoral benefits for Republican candidates and/or penalize Democrats remains an open question. We examine how voter ID impacts the parties’ electoral fortunes in races at the state level (state legislatures and governorships) and federal level (United States Congress and president) during 2003 to 2020. Our results suggest negligible average effects but with some heterogeneity over time. The first laws implemented produced a Democratic advantage, which weakened to near zero after 2012. We conclude that voter ID requirements motivate and mobilize supporters of both parties, ultimately mitigating their anticipated effects on election results.
AP News says it is now clear that Proposition 309, which would have imposed additional hurdles for absentee ballots and stricter voter ID requirements, has failed. The measure has fallen short by about 20,000 votes–over the recount margin.
“Arizona voters who overwhelmingly cast their ballots by mail have rejected a measure that would have required them to add more information to the simple signature and date they now put on the back of the return envelope.”
Had the measure passed, voters would have been required “to write their birthdates and add state-issued voter identification numbers, driver license or identification card numbers or a partial social security number to affidavits rather than just signing and dating them.” The back-of-envelope signature used by many counties would also have been changed to require that they be placed into a second envelope.
Meanwhile, those who lack photo IDs issued by state, tribal, or federal authorities would no longer have been able “to vote by presenting two alternate documents, such as a utility bill.”
HB 1878 was signed by Governor Parsons just over three weeks ago, but concerns for voter accessibility continue to grow.
The bill introduced many procedure changes for Missouri elections that will go into effect as early as August 28th.
The elimination of mail-in ballots in just one of these changes that could prevent eligible Missouri voters from doing their civic duty of participating in elections….
Along with the elimination of mail-in ballots, another area of concern within the bill in regards to accessibility is the addition of a photo ID requirement.
“In the November general election, you will have to present a government-issued photo ID instead of [something like] a bank statement or utility bill, or just your voter ID card. You actually now have a specific voter photo ID.” says Luke Campbell, Associate Professor of Political Science at NWMSU.
WaPo: “Voting rights proponents in Michigan submitted petitions Monday to guarantee at least nine days of early voting, expand the use of ballot drop boxes and ensure that people who forget to bring their ID to the polls can vote.”
Following up on earlier ELB coverage (here and here), the SCOTUSblog page is here. Oral argument takes place today around 11 am ET. The questions presented are procedural issues, but they are the kind that keep cropping up in election litigation. From the issues the Court will consider:
Issues: (1) Whether a state agent authorized by state law to defend the state’s interest in litigation must overcome a presumption of adequate representation to intervene as of right in a case in which a state official is a defendant; (2) whether a district court’s determination of adequate representation in ruling on a motion to intervene as of right is reviewed de novo or for abuse of discretion; and (3) whether petitioners Philip Berger, the president pro tempore of the state senate, and Timothy Moore, the speaker of the state house of representatives, are entitled to intervene as of right in this litigation.
You can find 211 pages of the opinion and dissent at this link.