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NHC Elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens on what you need to know for Election 2023

All NC voters will have to show ID. If you don't have one, then you'll have to fill out a Photo ID Exception Form
All NC voters will have to show ID. If you don't have one, then you'll have to fill out a Photo ID Exception Form

Municipal voting in New Hanover County is underway. And for this election, when voters go to the polls, they have to present a form of photo ID. In an effort to understand what voters need to know this election season, WHQR spoke with New Hanover County Elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens.

Hunter-Havens said for most voters the ID will take the form of a driver’s license, and poll workers will be looking to see if their name is equal to the name on the registration record, and if the license or another acceptable form of photo ID reasonably resembles the person who's voting.

Another permissible form of ID is a U.S. passport. And those who attend UNCW or CFCC can use a student ID.

If someone doesn’t have any of these forms of ID, the Board of Elections office or the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will print one for free.

As of mid-October, Hunter-Havens said her office has printed about 30 IDs.

“But if there's one point I get across, all voters will be allowed to vote with or without a photo ID,” Hunter-Havens said.

Provisional Ballots

Without an ID, they’ll have to cast a ballot provisionally — and these ‘provisional’ ballots do count.

“Unless the five-member County Elections Board has reason to believe in the falsity of the information on that form, we as a staff would recommend that the Board approve that provisional ballot,” Hunter-Havens said.

According to her, most of the provisional ballots traditionally have been counted not on Election night, but during the pre-canvass meeting, which historically has been the day before canvass (official results date), which this year is on Friday, November 17.

Photo ID Exception Form

And if voters do not have a photo ID, they will have to fill out what’s called a photo ID exception form.

Hunter-Havens said this exception form determines whether they have a “reasonable impediment” to getting one.

“Is there a religious objection to being photographed? Is there a lack of transportation; is [there] a disability or illness, a lack of a birth certificate?” she said.

Other acceptable reasons are there were issues with someone’s work or school schedule or family responsibilities. Voters can also check “other,” but they would need to provide a reason for checking this option.

But, if someone did just forget their ID, Hunter-Havens said, they could easily bring one to their main office by 5 p.m. on November 16.

Those who vote by mail or absentee ballot can also use this exception form if the person didn’t send in a photocopy of their ID.

Early voting (One-Stop Voting), Other info for voters with unique circumstances

If a voter misses the registration deadline, they can still register and vote the same day during the early voting period.

If they are registering, the person will have to show proof of residence, lasting at least three months. Typically this will be a utility bill, an electronic bank statement, or an earnings statement from the person’s employer.

For students who live on campus at UNCW — and they’re choosing to vote in New Hanover County, poll workers will be able to look up where they live and verify their proof of residency that way.

For those who have been convicted of a felony, Hunter-Havens said they need to make certain that they've satisfied any of the additional probation or other post-release criteria so that their citizen rights have been restored.

She suggested if they meet those requirements, they will likely have to re-register if they had been registered previously because it’s likely that the “registration would have been probably removed, so we just encourage those individuals to look and see if they're currently registered. If not, they still have that option to do standard registration during the early voting period.”

For voters with disabilities, curbside voting is available. This is for any voter, who due to age or a physical or mental disability, is not able to enter the voting booth.

Hunter-Havens said, “There will be exterior signage at all of our voting sites for those to see where the curbside voting area is, and it will allow them to cast their ballots in their vehicle.”

But she added that those who are blind or visually impaired have the option to enter the polling site and use a specialized voting machine.

Election Day — Go to your polling site listed on your registration

It's important that voters know they can go to any open early voting site. The Northeast Library is the only early voting site open until Friday, October 27. In addition to this site, starting Saturday, October 28, the other three sites of CFCC, the Senior Resource Center, and Carolina Beach Town Hall will open.

The last day of early voting is Saturday, November 4.

But on Election Day, which is November 7, Hunter-Havens said, “You really should go to your assigned polling place, because if you don't, you may not get the right ballot style, and you are going to have to vote provisionally because you're not going to be in the electronic poll book.”

And some precincts have changed or consolidated. She said with the voter look-up tool, people can verify where they need to go.

New NC Elections law, looking ahead to 2024

As for the latest changes the legislature recently made to voting in the state, Hunter-Havens said those won’t go into effect until January 1, 2024.

She said also she’s waiting for guidance from the State Board of Elections as to what's the best information to tell voters for next year's election.

And after these municipal elections, she’ll be looking for more poll workers for 2024. There will be a window in December to submit those applications.

“Because we immediately have to turn around and start training folks, because one stop for the primaries begins in February. And we have to close off that application process approximately two months before Election Day. We are hoping to do some voter ID events and maybe an Open House in January,” she said.

Resources for Voting

Early voting dates and locations
NHC Board of Elections
Early voting dates and locations
Important Voting Dates for NHC voters.
Important Voting Dates for NHC voters.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR