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Revisions to N.C. law to aid use of student IDs for voter identification

A law passed in North Carolina this week could carve an easier path for student IDs to be used for voter identification in the state. The new iteration of a law initially passed late in 2018 is the latest development in a back and forth debate amongst lawmakers and university administrators.

According to a report from the Watauga Democrat, the new law was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper on June 3, and there have been some minor changes and additions to the original language of the law set out late last year.

As the bill was written in December 2018, post-secondary institutions had to capture the photos that were printed on student ID cards in order for the credentials to be accepted as valid voter identification at the polls. That’s now been changed in Session Law 2019-22 to state that photos appearing on a university-issued ID card can be “obtained by the university, college or its agents.” For photos not taken by the university or its agents, the institution must explain in detail the process used to ensure the photo is that of the student.

S.L. 2019-22 also removes some problematic language that required universities to submit an attestation letter under penalty of perjury that its student IDs were issued following a process that verified student citizenship status, Social Security number and birth date. The new language removes the penalty of perjury and instead requires the university or college to submit “documentation satisfactory to the N.C. State Board of Elections” stating that the requirements have knowingly been met.

A new addition to the law is that any student ID cards issued after January 1, 2021, must feature an expiration date in order to be used for voter identification. And a further addition to the law requires the N.C. State Board of Elections to provide sample ID templates on its website to illustrate for state universities what a valid form of voter identification must look like.

The law also allows the Board of Elections to establish a schedule for ID card submissions and approvals for each two-year period. The previous iteration did not set a roadmap for future ID approvals beyond 2019.

According to the Watauga Democrat report, a total of 72 state organizations, including Appalachian State University, were approved in March by the state Board of Elections to issue valid forms of voter identification. Of the organizations denied, most were higher education institutions.

The new deadline for higher education institutions, local governments, tribes and other municipal governing bodies in North Carolina to apply for voter ID clearance is now November 1, 2020.

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