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Fix proposed so student IDs can be used for voting

April 12th, 2019

— Legislation meant to work around a problem the state has had getting college IDs approved for voting identification was filed Tuesday.

Update: This legislation passed the House Thursday, April 11, 2019, on a 100-9 vote. It moves now to the state Senate.

Lawmakers had been promising this fix. Most of the state’s universities failed to satisfy legal requirements set out by the General Assembly to get their campus IDs approved, and a deadline to do so for the 2020 elections passed last month.

House Bill 646 would tweak those rules in several places. No longer would the colleges have to take the pictures themselves, potentially allowing campuses that let students submit selfies for their IDs get those ID cards approved for use at the polls.

A requirement that campus officials sign off, under penalty of perjury, on a series of ID requirements would also be dropped under the new language.

The bill was filed by House Rules Chairman David Lewis, who also chaired the House Elections Committee last year as the General Assembly wrote the voter ID rules. Rep. Ray Russell, D-Watauga, who sounded the alarm on the campus ID issue earlier this year, is a co-sponsor.

A photo ID requirement to vote was added to the state constitution last year, but lawmakers have already agreed to delay implementation until next year. The campus ID issue arose earlier this year and Lewis, R-Harnett, said repeatedly that the legislature planned to allow campus IDs to be used as voter ID and that needed changes would be made to get that done.

“I promised last month that I would introduce legislation to ensure that additional IDs would have the chance to be approved, and this is the product of that effort,” Lewis said in a statement Tuesday.

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, a co-chairman for the Senate Elections Committee, said Tuesday that the House and Senate agree on “the broad strokes” of Lewis’ bill. State Sen. Ralph Hise, another Senate co-chair, said he has some questions about the bill, including language on confirming the identities of people whose ID’s have self-taken pictures.

The measure also includes a provision that would give local boards of election more flexibility in setting up early voting sites for municipal elections. Gerry Cohen, a longtime legislative attorney now on the Wake County Board of Elections, tweeted that the flexibility would also apply to the upcoming special elections in the 3rd and 9th congressional districts.

“Should allow more (early voting) sites,” Cohen said on Twitter. “Looks like a good bill.”

Lewis said in his statement that this change should save local governments “significant sums and enable counties to conduct early voting for municipal elections in an orderly fashion.”

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