The state NAACP wants voters to know that there are ways to cast a ballot this year even without photo identification, but the State Board of Elections is worried that the group’s message is misleading.
The state law requiring a photo ID, which goes into effect this year, allows voters without an ID to cast provisional ballots after they sign “reasonable impediment” forms saying why they couldn’t get one.
The Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president, said in an interview that the Board of Elections’ education campaign, which stresses that voters should bring IDs, sends “clouded, unclear messages” because it buries information about the “reasonable impediment declaration.”
“Our lawyers are deeply concerned that they have, at best, misdirected the voters because they are not saying what the law says,” Barber said.
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Barber and other NAACP representatives held a news conference this week to publicize its views. “You can vote with or without a photo ID,” he said.
But Kim Strach, the State Board of Elections executive director, said the board’s publications and ads properly explain the law. Strach said she’s worried that the NAACP will lead people to conclude incorrectly that they don’t need to bring IDs even if they have them.
She sent Barber a letter Thursday explaining her concerns that the NAACP may be giving people the wrong idea about the law.
“A voter who simply does not wish to bring photo ID is not able truthfully to sign the required declaration,” Strach wrote. “That is why our materials emphasize the general rule that voters present acceptable photo ID, and then note that exceptions are available.
“Overbroad statements that cast photo ID requirements as merely optional are both counterproductive and damaging to the elections process,” she added.
Most voters have an acceptable form of identification, Strach said in an interview. People who have IDs but don’t bring them will be able to cast provisional ballots, but those ballots won’t automatically be counted. Those voters will have to show their IDs at local elections boards for their ballots to count, Strach said.
The NAACP and others are suing over the state’s voter ID law, which was passed in 2013. On the eve of a federal trial last summer, the legislature watered down the law to allow for provisional ballots in cases where voters do not have one of the eight forms of acceptable ID.
That added a twist to the court case and led to additional legal wrangling. The trial is set to begin Jan. 25 in Winston-Salem.
Until lawsuits in the works are fully decided, some of the 2013 rules are not in place for the state’s March 15 primary. Same-day registration during the early voting period and out-of-precinct voting are still allowed.
Barber said thousands of volunteers are preparing to distribute voting information for the primary, and a half million brochures will be handed out over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
Jan. 25: Absentee voting by mail begins
Feb. 19: Voter registration deadline
March 3: Early voting period begins
March 12: Early voting period ends
March 15: Primary