Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina?

The short answer is no. Only persons voting in person must show ID.

From the comments to this post showing differences by party of same day registration/voting as compared to absentee via mail voting was the following comment (shown in full):

It could be argued, of course, that the Obama vote totals in both ’08 and ’12 were unjustly enriched from a no-ID policy, if one believes that matching an ID to the vote is an appropriate regulation in a democratic system. The new law, in this view, would correct the “over-vote” for that candidate.

I’d be interested in knowing whether the presentation of an ID in order to obtain or register a mail-in ballot is a requirement under the new law.

Answering the question but skipping the evidence-free innuendo, the only form of voting under the new North Carolina election law that does not require an ID to be shown to someone to legally vote is absentee mail voting. From the text of the H589:


SECTION 2.1. Article 14A of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

“§ 163‑166.13. Photo identification requirement for voting in person.

(a) Every qualified voter voting in person in accordance with this Article, G.S. 163‑227.2, or G.S. 163‑182.1A shall present photo identification bearing any reasonable resemblance to that voter to a local election official at the voting place before voting, except as follows: [bold emphasis added by me above]

The requirement to show an ID to vote is limited to those voting in person, with an allowance made for curbside voting outside a precinct where a poll worker comes to the car (this is considered in person). If you request an absentee ballot you do have to provide some identifying information in written form; options include providing a NC DL number, the last 4 digits of a Social Security number, etc [see § 163‑230.2. (4)].

SECTION 4.1.  G.S. 163‑229(b) of the law begins a lengthy section governing absentee ballots. There are a couple of notable changes.

  • The voter no longer has to personally write out the request for an absentee ballot or use a form created by a county board of election to request an absentee ballot. Now the form requesting an absentee ballot can only come from the State Board of Elections, but can be a pre-printed form (not written out by voter). In the past, if someone other than the voter wrote out the request for an absentee ballot, that would constitute fraud. This appears to open up campaigns bringing the absentee request form to voters. See § 163‑230.2. (a)
  • The voter now has to sign the absentee ballot (as before) but now two people must sign and say they saw them vote, as I read it.

The first bullet point is an expansion that makes absentee voting easier from an electioneering standpoint (having an elderly voter hand write a request that was fairly detailed was time consuming; if you did it for them, it was fraud).

The second bullet point requiring two witnesses to view the votes is a tightening. A further tightening is found in SECTION 4.6.(a)  G.S. 163‑226.3(a)(4) that refers to places like nursing homes no longer being able to have managers or workers in Nursing Homes help voters get absentee ballots for residents/patients. The law says “multi-partisan teams” will go out to such places and help folks get absentee ballots. The application of this approach could be quite different across counties, and within parts of counties. I don’t get the ban on workers at Nursing Homes, etc helping residents vote. The people who the State trusts to care for people in Nursing Homes can’t be trusted to help them vote?

It is a long and complicated bill, soon to be law. Read it for yourself.

cross posted at freeforall

Author: Don Taylor

Don Taylor is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at Duke University, where his teaching and research focuses on health policy, with a focus on Medicare generally, and on hospice and palliative care, specifically. He increasingly works at the intersection of health policy and the federal budget. Past research topics have included health workforce and the economics of smoking. He began blogging in June 2009 and wrote columns on health reform for the Raleigh, (N.C.) News and Observer. He blogged at The Incidental Economist from March 2011 to March 2012. He is the author of a book, Balancing the Budget is a Progressive Priority that will be published by Springer in May 2012.

18 thoughts on “Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina?”

  1. Great investigative spadework Don! Does this mean the logical thing for GOTV efforts is just to get people sign up for vote by mail?

    1. I think in most states you cannot vote absentee the first time; especially if you register to vote by mail. GOTV campaigns already try to push people towards early/absentee voting as much as it’s allowed.

    2. while i will admit we do have until 2016 to work the “bugs” out so instead of worrying what is not here yet..can we agree to try and work out a viable solution to the problem ? and as a person who have and had a parent/grandparent who was in a nursing home..sadly many are too ill ( but not all) are not cognitive enough to make a rational well reasoned thought out process to cast a ballot ..but say what you will but instead of worrying at this about starting tomorrow and work together and find a viable way to work around issues like who is game or up for that ?? after all what have you to lose ?

  2. In 2008 & 2012, Obama campaign (in Durham anyway) explicitly didn’t push absentee requests, in large part because someone writing out the required statement for a voter was not allowed. We tried to convince anyone asking for such to lets us drive them to early vote. However, it will become an option for a voter without an ID, esp since they have moved to one State wide form to request (no longer county based), so there may be some Dem shift toward absentee as best way late in campaign to address someone without an ID since you can write last 4 digits of SSN to comply. The final regs that State Board of elections puts out will be key, but it will still be a two step process (request, then the absentee is mailed) but campaigns could then go back and try and ensure the ballot had been mailed, and could serve as the witnesses for say elderly person living alone, for example. A lot of extra steps, but unless law knocked down by the courts no need to moan about it….time to get busy.

  3. The new NC law is next-to worthless then, if the intent behind the bill is to stop voter fraud.

    It’s the absentee ballot that largely is the method by which fraud occurs, fraud, at least on a large scale. There are some ways that in theory could curtail absentee ballot voter fraud such as sending empty envelopes addressed to individuals at their publicly listed addresses. If the envelopes come back “undeliverable,” yet the person at that address voted, then there would be grounds for challenging the vote.

    But these sorts of methods are only a partial fix — it would prevent, for example, casting a ballot in a person’s name who is registered to vote at an address but doesn’t live there. But it doesn’t prevent casting ballots in a person’s name who is registered to vote and *does* live at his registered address, but simply never himself votes. One fraudster could cast ballots in the names of every person in, say, a public housing complex or student dormitory if he is reasonably certain that they will not vote. In June four Indiana Democratic officials were found guilty and one went to prison for fraudulently casting 200 absentee ballots in ’08. A Massachusetts Democratic state rep was sentenced earlier this year to six months in prison for fraudulently casting hundreds of absentee ballots. And on and on.

    The single method to stop absentee ballot fraud is to require an individual to present an ID in order to receive an absentee ballot and/or when he casts it.

    1. The effect of the law on the whole will be to make it harder for the Dem/liberal/progressive coalition to get low probability voters to vote. I typically try and give people the benefit of the doubt on intent, but I don’t think this new law was ever about preventing fraud, adn early on many Repubs admitted this and said it was about ‘increasing confidence’. That was when it was only a voter ID law. After sec 4 of the VRA was struck, the law became much broader. It is instructive that the Republicans in power ended a form of voting that largely favors dems (same day registration and voting), but did not apply the need for an ID to absentee voting, which is a method of voting favored by Republicans as compared to Dems historically.If about fraud, why end same day registration and voting if an ID were to be required?

      1. I think the biggest practical effect of these laws will be on student voting. In my midwestern college town, many people retained out-of-town/out-of-state drivers licenses (or other state-issued ID) but registered to vote (quite legally) in the placed they lived for 4 years. I imagine it’ll be a much easier task to design gerrymandered districts around, say, Lawrence, KS or Madison, WI now that you’ve got thousands of students voting (if they vote at all) where their parents live rather than where they live… especially since youth turnout is so much lower for non-presidential elections.

        The focus in the media and in the courts is on the racially disparate impact of these laws — rightfully so since that’s what’s protected under the law or at least what was protected under the law. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that states pushing earliest and most forcefully for voter ID laws were states with Republican legislatures figuring out how to deal with liberal-leaning pockets of folks usually wedged between much more conservative populations.

    1. This. At least the challenges to in-person voters occur in the open where there is a chance of recording who is doing the challenging and bringing resources to bear to prevent the Republicans’ voter suppression fraud. I suspect the absentee ballots from districts that the Republicans have decided are “too incompetent to vote” will simply be ‘challenged’ – i.e. shredded – behind closed doors.


  4. Why aren’t Democrats (and other parties interested in making voter easier rather than harder) promoting something basically identical to what America did to legitimize elections in Iraq and Afghanistan: use indelible ink to mark the fingers of all voters?

    I’m not sure how indelible the purple ink we used was, but this probably doesn’t apply to early voting. However, any conspiracy to rig an election using in-person voter fraud with any hope of succeeding seems to me to necessarily require people to vote multiple times… such a conspiracy would require identifying people who don’t show up to vote and impersonating them (or impersonating falsely registered, fictional people). Checking IDs would actually be less effective at stopping this than using indelible ink since the conspirators could also make fake IDs.

    1. Same principle as a lot of this: Much of the time we’re not talking about actual obstacles to voting, just things which would inconvenience people who have very little motivation to vote. A fair number at the margins would refuse to vote if it meant spoiling their pedicure. And most such people would vote Democratic.

      1. 1. Manicure, not pedicure. Or maybe — “You have to take off your shoes to fly, why shouldn’t you have to take off your shoes to prove you didn’t already vote today?”

        2. With as much evidence as you have, I predict that if this proposal went mainstream, a lot of people would suddenly be very concerned about their right to not advertise whether they have voted or not, and that those people will be mostly Republican. And white! Because that makes the purple mark more visible.

      2. obstacles come in denominations below ‘prevention’
        blocking 5% at a 100% rate gets similar results as inconveniencing 100% at a 5% rate.

      3. A fair number at the margins would refuse to vote if it meant spoiling their pedicure. And most such people would vote Democratic.

        B-b-b-but I thought it was an article of faith among right wingers that Teh Republican Ladeez are all beautifully made up, coiffed and dressed, and DEMONRATS are all ugly, smelly, hairy hippy dykes?! Can you people please pick an argument and stick with it for five seconds?

  5. “Much of the time we’re not talking about actual obstacles to voting, just things which would inconvenience people who have very little motivation to vote. ”

    The Brett Bellmore definition of ‘obstacle’ – ‘something which makes it *literally impossible* to do something’.

    I would say that it’s informative that Mr. Libertarian looks at a law which is not designed to do what it’s declared to do, but by this stage no further information about you is needed.

    1. Unless we’re talking about the 2nd amendment. Then the slightest obstacle is unconstitutional “infringement.”

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