The North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) voted 4-1 against a complaint at a board meeting Monday that stated the database verification of registrants isn’t fully compliant with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Carol Snow, who filed a complaint last year alleging the state’s voter registration form violated HAVA because it didn’t require that a voter put their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on the form, filed the new complaint charging that the verification process of a registrants’ driver’s license and Social Security number didn’t go far enough.

At the beginning of her discussion, Snow reiterated much of her original complaint about a registrant’s driver’s license number or the last four of their SSI # not being required on the application.

“Clearly, the state cannot verify an applicant’s identity and birthday using the driver’s license number when the applicant was not required to provide it at all on the state’s voter registration application, and despite this, these application forms were accepted, and processed anyway,” Snow said. “So, it occurs to me that one way for state elections officials to avoid or circumvent HAVA’s required verification step is by not requiring this ID on their application. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for elections officials, elections board members, and the general counsel of the State Board of Elections to know the HAVA Act like they know their own names and to adhere to it.”

At a November meeting, officials said they were already in the process of revamping the voter registration form, and this was one of the items they were looking at because there was an inconsistency between the way the HAVA ID question is presented to voters and the way that the federal statute reads. They unanimously agreed that the form violated Section 303 of HAVA and would implement changes to the form. The changes were made before the primary election in March.

Snow referenced a statement made by NCSBE General Counsel Paul Cox at the November meeting in which he said, if a voter registration form doesn’t have a driver’s license number or the last four digits of an SSI #, a separate provision of HAVA kicks in, where the applicant shows a HAVA ID, to ensure the voter is identified before they’re able to cast a ballot.

She said Cox’s statement is factually incorrect.

NCSBE Board meeting, June 17, 2024. Source: NCSBE livestream.

“The verification section of HAVA does not state or even imply that if a state’s voter registration form is incorrect and the application was accepted and processed without the required information, thus providing no ability to verify eligibility, this individual may show a copy of their utility bill to verify their identity and birth date before they vote for the first time,” said Snow. “The state board’s General Counsel was, of course, referring to section 303 B, which is a requirement for voters who register by mail. This section is below the verification section and outlines an additional requirement specifically for individuals who submit their registration application by mail so their driver’s license number or the last four of their social would have already been verified.”

Snow said HAVA doesn’t offer a “Plan B”, like showing a copy of a utility bill.

She ended her presentation by saying the state cannot circumvent verification requirements by failing to obtain required information from the applicant, suggesting the NCSBE obtain the required ID numbers from every registrant since HAVA became effective and verify their accuracy as required under the Civil Rights Statute.

Cox said Snow’s latest complaint sounded like a “recast” of her earlier complaint that the board had already ruled on, to which Snow objected. Snow stated the new complaint states that you cannot go through a verification of information if you didn’t receive the information in the first place.

“You can’t verify nonexistent information, and that is a problem,” she said.

Cox also pointed out that the board rejected Snow’s request to go back and contact 250,000 valid registered voters in question for their identifying information. He also countered Snow’s latest complaint in which she said HAVA does not allow a state to have its own set of laws that says what to do if those numbers do not match.

“I think state law is pretty clear on this that if the validation through the database with the driver’s license records and the Social Security Administration records does not produce a match, general statute 163-166.12 states plainly that you have to allow that person to register and vote if that person provides HAVA ID,” Cox said. “HAVA ID, the board is aware, includes a photo identification, utility bill, government check, other official documents that are in an enumerated list that can show a person’s name and address. So, then the question is, is it a HAVA violation of the state law to provide for that, and we believe that it’s not.”

He said the provision of HAVA that is directly relevant to this question is 52 USC 21083, Subsection A53. It says the state shall determine whether the information provided by an individual is sufficient to meet the requirements of this subparagraph in accordance with state law. Cox said North Carolina enacted a law after HAVA.

“Counsel does not believe there is a violation of HAVA here as stated,” Cox said. “HAVA clearly incorporates the ability for states to provide an alternative process to confirm someone’s identity when these databases do not produce in a match.”

It was also pointed out that other states, such as Georgia, have the same provision as North Carolina.

Board member Kevin Lewis asked Cox if Snow alleged that when no driver’s license number or the last four digits of an SSI # are provided, there can’t be a verification process, and without the verification process, you can’t provide a HAVA ID. Cox replied that was what was stated, but since the board ruled on the first complaint, county boards have been instructed not to register someone who submits an application form that lacks one of these forms of ID.

Board member Jeff Carmon made a motion that the state board find and conclude that the complainant has not established a violation of HAVA because the state law is consistent with HAVA, which permits the verification of voter identification through alternative means when there is not a successful database match.

Before voting, board member Stacy Eggers IV wanted to acknowledge that there is a problem with the voter rolls that needs to be addressed, and a process needs to be implemented to obtain missing information from voters; but he was not in favor of unregistering them. Eggers stated since they are minimally compliant with HAVA, he would support the motion.

The board voted 4-1 in favor of Carmon’s motion. Lewis was the lone no vote.