Vote signs

RALEIGH — Students and employees at all UNC System campuses will be able to use their school identification cards for the state’s voter ID mandate that begins in 2020 with the March primary election.

The State Board of Elections announced Tuesday the approval of cards for students, or for students and employees, at 12 of the 17 UNC schools. IDs for these schools, including UNCG and N.C. A&T, had been rejected in March because the election board’s staff determined that they fell short of the security standards set out in the state law that implemented the photo ID mandate. In a November 2018 referendum, voters approved adding the requirement to the North Carolina Constitution.

The General Assembly altered the ID rules last spring, and schools with rejected cards could reapply in time for the 2020 elections. For example, the process was changed so that a student could provide the photograph to be affixed to the ID. Otherwise, the facial image could be taken only by the school or the school’s contractor.

Before Tuesday’s approvals by the election board’s executive director, Karen Brinson Bell, students at large campuses such as N.C. A&T, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte and East Carolina University wouldn’t have been able to show their school IDs to vote.

University IDs were considered a critical alternative for young people who lacked a driver’s license, which had already been designated in state law as a qualifying identification card along with passports, military ID cards and others. But public and private colleges, charter schools and local and state government agencies had to go through the separate ID confirmation process.

With other approvals announced in mid-March and early November, more than 150 types of photo ID can now be used next year according to the elections board. Most of North Carolina’s 850 schools, government agencies and tribes eligible to have their ID cards approved chose not to apply.

Qualifying IDs will have to be used for both in-person and traditional absentee voting. A law approved this fall clarified how voters of mail-in ballots will have to provide a copy.

Those who don’t show photo ID while voting in person can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted if a person brings an acceptable ID later to the office of that county’s elections board. In-person or mail-in voters can sign affidavits declaring a “reasonable impediment” prevents them from offering a qualifying ID. Free photo IDs are available. More details will be made soon to North Carolina households.

Lawsuits challenging the voter ID requirement are making their way through state and federal courts. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for next week on a motion by state and local NAACP chapters to block the ID mandate, saying it would discourage black and Latino citizens from voting.

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