The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

February 7, 2014

Big voting changes begin with new year

Thursday, February 6, 2014 — RALEIGH –- When the calendar changed to 2014, a whole host of voting and election laws changed with it. The sweeping elections overhaul bill passed and signed into law last year made many dramatic changes to the way we conduct campaigns and elections in North Carolina, and the bulk of those changes went into effect as of Jan. 1.

The provision that always gets the most attention, and attracts the most controversy, is the voter ID requirement. But the law does much more than that.

The measure also cuts a week off early voting, though counties are required to offer the same number of hours of early voting in 2014 as they did in 2010. Additionally, it eliminates same-day registration, ends public financing as an option for judicial candidates, raises contribution limits for candidates from $4,000 to $5,000, weakens some campaign finance disclosure requirements and more.

However, it is important to remember that North Carolinians will not have to show a picture ID at the polls until 2016. Beginning this year voters will be made aware of the new requirement when they go vote, but will not be required to provide a photo ID in order to cast a ballot in 2014.

For voters who do not have an acceptable ID under the new law, they can get a free ID card from the DMV beginning this year.

A full list of acceptable IDs for 2016 can be found online at voterIDnc.com, but the list generally includes a North Carolina driver’s license or special ID card for non-drivers (provided free by the state if you don’t have any other form of ID), U.S. passport, U.S. military or veterans ID card or a tribal card from a federally or state recognized tribe. An out-of-state driver’s license will also be acceptable in 2016, but only if you registered to vote within 90 days of the election.

The list of IDs is pretty limited in scope, and does not include any form of school ID. While nobody will be required to show an ID at the polls in 2014, voters are encouraged to verify that they do possess an acceptable ID prior to 2016.

Another aspect of the law that may cause some confusion in 2014 is the elimination of same-day voter registration. For the past several years, North Carolinians have been able to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day during the early voting period. But under the new law, all voters must be registered 25 days before the election in order to be eligible to vote.

So, if you wish to vote in the May 6 primary this year, you absolutely must be registered to vote in your current location by April 11.

Voters may notice a change on their ballot this year as a result of the new law, as well, because straight-ticket voting will no longer be an option in North Carolina. That means voters will no longer be able to check one box to vote for all candidates of a single party, but must now mark the ballot for each individual race they wish to vote in.   

There are many other significant changes going into effect with the new elections overhaul law as well, which makes it extremely important that voters get educated before heading to the polls in 2014.

The voting experience is going to be much different in North Carolina moving forward, and every single voter must be prepared to ensure their ballot is counted and their voice is heard.

Brent Laurenz is executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education and a contributor to TheVoter Update.com. He can be contacted at laurenz@ncvotered.com.

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