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Voters line up in the ASU Plemmons Student Union in November 2012. The N.C. General Assembly may again consider implementing a law that requires voters to present photo identification before casting a ballot. File photo.

Originally published: 2013-01-21 10:28:33
Last modified: 2013-01-21 10:45:20

Voter ID still up for debate

As the N.C. General Assembly reconvenes this year, a contentious question may again once again arise: Should photo identification be required to vote?

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has pledged his support for such a measure, although he said recently that he would consider a bill that requires other documentation than a photo ID to prove identity.

"I expect a voter ID bill to be passed in the very near future, and I will sign that bill," McCrory said earlier this month.

But how many voters would be affected by such a bill?

A study released Jan. 7 by the State Board of Elections found that just more than 9 percent of the state’s registered voters might currently lack state-issued photo identification.

Comparing voter logs to Department of Motor Vehicles records, the board found that 6,011,717 North Carolina voters were believed to have a valid driver license or photo ID card based on an exact match of their name, driver license number, Social Security number or date of birth.

That left exactly 612,955 registered voters who could not be absolutely confirmed to possess a valid North Carolina driver license or photo ID card.

The board further found that more than half of the unconfirmed names were registered Democrats, and two-thirds of the unconfirmed names were women.

About 24 percent of the voters who might not have photo ID are over the age of 65, the board determined.

The study, while thorough, is not a perfect indication of how many voters would be affected by a voter ID law.

“Some had a driver’s license match, some had a Social Security match and some had a date-of-birth match, and then there were some that didn’t have that,” said Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the State Board of Elections. “But there could be other explanations.”

The board noted that women are more likely to change their names based on marriage or divorce and may not have updated their voter registration or driver license with the new name. Older women also may not have ever obtained driver licenses, it added.

“This fact could account for the higher percentage of females in the category of voters who do not appear to have DMV-issued ID,” the board wrote in its analysis.

Because the study used only exact matches of names and numbers, there could be simpler explanations.

“Some of them, it could just simply be that there is a typographical error in the way the name or number was entered into the voter registration system,” McLean said.


Watauga County

In Watauga County, exactly 4,443 registered voters could not be confirmed to have a photo ID, the study showed. That equates to 10.44 percent of all registered voters in the county.

Of those, the Watauga Democrat found that:

— About 61 percent were female and 39 percent were male.

— 30.65 percent were Democrats; 27.41 percent were Republicans; 40.63 percent were unaffiliated; 1.31 percent were Libertarians.

— 89.31 percent were white; 2.93 percent were black; 0.92 percent were Asian; 0.25 percent were American Indian; 1.42 percent were multiracial; 2.09 percent were other; 3.06 percent were undesignated.

Watauga County also has another potential explanation for why some of the names can’t be matched with a state-issued ID: out-of-state students.

To register in a particular area of North Carolina, a person must have lived there for at least 30 days before the election, so college students are able to register here if they determine that this is their residence.

Of the 4,443 names on the list, about 23 percent listed an Appalachian State University dorm as his or her address. Even more listed an ASU post office box address. Still others listed addresses in apartment complexes commonly rented to students.

Because the study did not look at out-of-state licenses, it’s possible that some of those students do have photo identification from their home states. It’s also possible that some of the students still on the voter rolls in Watauga County have completed college and moved away but have not yet changed their voter registration.

The Board of Elections study also did not determine which residents might hold passports, student photo IDs or other types of documentation.


Past attempts at voter ID

The state’s last attempt at creating a voter ID requirement in 2011 stopped at former Gov. Bev Perdue’s desk. Attempts to override her veto failed.

That bill would have required voters to present one of eight forms of photo ID, including a driver license, U.S. passport or military ID card.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in 2011 that he was definitely in favor of it.

Sen. Dan Soucek also spoke at that time about the importance of eliminating any voter fraud.

“We want everybody who is legally able to vote to be able to vote, but when you have people who are not legal, that's what disfranchises people," he said. "Anything we can do to try to get as much voter fraud out of the system is great."