News: CJ Exclusives

DOT Official: Getting ID For Voting Should Be “Pretty Simple” For Out-Of-State Students

College students who can prove residency will face no additional delays at DMV offices

Out-of-state college students wishing to vote in North Carolina elections should find it relatively easy to get a state-issued photo identification card that will be necessary to cast a ballot under the new voter ID system.

While an out-of-state driver’s license or ID card issued by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles will suffice for people who registered to vote within 90 days of their first North Carolina election, they’ll need to obtain a different photo ID card for subsequent elections. “It should be pretty simple,” said Steve Abbott, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Media reports and opinion pieces have suggested that student voters would face major impediments in 2016 when the ID requirement — included in House Bill 589, an election reform bill Gov. Pat McCrory signed last week — takes effect. Abbott suggests those concerns are overblown.

Abbott said students coming to North Carolina for college could obtain a DMV ID card by providing several specific documents necessary to prove their age, identity, proof of Social Security registration, and proof of residency.

“As soon as they have those in hand, there’s no waiting period,” Abbott said.

Acceptable documents to prove age and identity can include the student’s out-of-state driver’s license or ID card, a birth certificate, original Social Security card, tax forms, motor vehicle record, school documents, passport, certified marriage certificate, and court or other government documents. A person seeking a North Carolina DMV ID card will need two of the proof-of-age and identity documents.

An array of documents can be used for proof of Social Security. They include a Social Security card, tax forms, payroll records, or any Social Security, military, or Medicare/Medicaid documents reflecting the Social Security number.

Acceptable proof-of-residency documents include government-issued documents, a North Carolina vehicle registration card or title, a voter precinct card, military documents, utility bills, housing documents (including housing leases, contracts, mortgage statements, property or income tax statements), financial statements, school records, N.C. vehicle insurance policies, or even a letter from a homeless shelter).

Joni Worthington, vice president for communications for the UNC system, said the requirements to establish residency for in-state tuition are more demanding than those for acquiring a driver’s license, state ID card, or voter registration. For one thing, Worthington noted that out-of-state students seeking to obtain in-state status have to prove continuous residency for at least one year. They cannot live in North Carolina during the academic year and then return home in the summer.

In addition to a driver’s license and DMV ID card, the new voter ID law allows a U.S. passport, military ID card, veterans ID card, and a tribal ID card as acceptable documents to establish identity. Voters older than 70 will be able to use any of those cards even if they have expired, provided that the card had not expired on the day the voter reached the age of 70.

A photo ID will have to be shown to vote in the 2016 elections. In elections held before Jan. 1, 2016, elections officials count ballots cast by voters who don’t have IDs but will inform them of the pending requirement.

People moving to North Carolina from other states are allowed to vote in the state if they live in the state, precinct, ward, or other election district for 30 or more days before the election.

While the N.C. Constitution requires a person to live in the state for one year to establish residency, a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that a similar one-year residency requirement to vote was unconstitutional, suggesting that 30 days was ample time to establish residency.

Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.