Most UNC system student IDs cannot be used for voting in 2020 under current law.
The State Board of Elections rejected requests of nearly all of UNC’s campuses to have their students’ IDs cleared for use at the polls.
All 17 UNC institutions applied for approval this week. The only UNC schools whose students and employees can use IDs to vote next year are NC State University, NC Central University, Elizabeth City State University, Appalachian State University, and UNC Asheville. A handful of other UNC schools had only their employee IDs approved for voting.
Some community colleges and private colleges and universities also had their student IDs approved. Students at Duke University, Meredith College, Shaw University, and St. Augustine University will be able to use their school IDs to vote.
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The board approved Native American tribal enrollment cards and IDs for employees of some state agencies, charter schools, local governments.
About 850 colleges, universities, state and local employers and tribal entities were eligible to submit requests for ID approval, state Elections Director Kim Strach said in a letter to legislators. Of those, 81 applied.
The deadline for the Board of Elections to approve or reject applications was Friday.
Voters put a photo voter ID requirement in the state constitution last year. The standards for suitable student and government employee identification cards is part of the law implementing voter ID.
Voting rights and civic groups have been critical of the law’s requirements for student ID approval.
“There should have been a clearer pathway for schools to think through how they would put these things into implementation,” Danica Lee, youth engagement coordinator for NC Asian Americans Together, said in an interview.
To be used at the polls under the voter ID law, student IDs must have photos taken by the school or a contractor; have been issued after student Social Security numbers, citizenship status , birthdates and other identifying information was confirmed; have expiration dates, and meet other requirements.
In her letter to legislators, Strach said staff approved 72 institutions’ requests and rejected 13.
All the rejected requests were from UNC institutions, including UNC Healthcare, which asked to have its employee IDs approved.
Strach said in her letter that some schools described a process of issuing IDs where students or employees submitted their own pictures. Those applications could not be approved, she wrote.
Some colleges and universities have programs that do not require all students who have IDs to provide personal information that meets the law’s requirements, Strach wrote.
“For example, one university indicated that it requests all applicants to provide the required information but they have several programs that allow local high school students to take courses on campus, and these students receive university identification cards without going through the process that requests social security number, citizenship status and birthdate,” she wrote.
Other universities have ways other than Social Security number, birthdate, and citizenship status to identify students, Strach wrote, but those applications had to be rejected.
Strach said in the letter that she hoped there could be a “legislative remedy” so more ID cards could be approved before the 2020 election.
“We understand that the General Assembly intended for students and employees of identified institutions to be able to use their student or employee identification card to vote,” Strach wrote. “We also understand the General Assembly wants to ensure identification cards are produced in a manner that confirms the identity of the individual depicted on the identification card. It is my belief that it was for both of those important goals that requirements for the identification card were established, and the statutory approval process in the statute is a way to ensure both goals may be met.”
Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, who was instrumental in writing the voter ID law, and Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine, a co-chairman of the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee, could not be reached Saturday.
Democrats said in a press release that Republicans are jeopardizing the voting rights of students across the state.
“This problem lies squarely at the feet of a General Assembly who passed and lauded a restrictive voter suppression amendment, made it nearly impossible for universities to comply with its requirements, and refused to accept any legislative solutions to remedy the problem,” Rep. Ray Russell, a Boone Democrat, said in the press release. “We should not be treating something as important as voting rights for students across the state with chaos and confusion. The legislature must fix this now.”