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Election Law Changes: Photo ID Not Required this Year, But Poll Workers Will Ask the Question

Smithsonian Institute

When voters go to the polls in the upcoming May primary, they will encounter a new process. 

One big change:  while people won’t be required to show photo identification this year, they will have to answer the question of whether they have one.  


Until the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Voter Information Verification Act in August of last year, voters walked in to their polling location, stated name, address, and party affiliation, and went to vote. 

But starting this May, New Hanover County’s Elections Director Marvin McFadyen says there will be a new list of procedures at the registration table. 

“And one of those will be showing types of IDs that are acceptable, finding out from that individual if they have one of those acceptable forms, and if they do not, they’ll sign an acknowledgement stating that.  And then again that allows us – the County Board and the State Board – to start gathering that data and working with those individuals before 2016.”   

Some opponents of the photo ID requirement argue that asking about an ID when it’s not yet a requirement is tantamount to intimidation at the polls. 

But McFadyen points to the outreach efforts that each county board of elections will undertake once they have that data.

“It’s not only a county board initiative.  It really starts at the state level.  And that was part of the bill, as well, to create an outreach program that provides that information. Many avenues are out there as far as educating the public and providing them a list of agencies where they can work on getting the information necessary, documentation necessary to obtain that identification.”

The Division of Motor Vehicles is required to provide an ID free of charge to any eligible person who is willing to affirm they need the ID for voting purposes.  

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.