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Friday, March 18, 2016


NC's new identity hurdle blocks the vote

by Tom Sullivan

Students arrived in a steady stream at the Board of Elections office in Asheville, NC late Tuesday afternoon. It was Primary Day, the first election operating under the state's new voter ID law. Students found that their out-of-state IDs and state-issued student IDs were unacceptable under the new law and many could not vote a regular ballot. They had come trying to fix voter registration issues, and some to cast provisional ballots. During early voting in the state, "the highest concentrations of provisional ballots from voters without ID were in places with college campuses."

At the polling place down the road from the University of North Carolina Asheville campus, the parking lot was completely full. The shuttle bus from campus had to thread its way cautiously through the gravel lot. The ID problems were causing such delays that the election observer from Democracy NC reported that officials at one point had divided students into a separate line from other voters. The practice was quickly stopped. Students elsewhere in the state faced similar problems voting:

At a precinct in Raleigh at Pullen Park, where many N.C. State students vote, the university bused students in every 15 minutes, and more than 1,700 people voted there on Tuesday. By 7 p.m., a line of hundreds of people stretched into the parking lot. Polls had been scheduled to close at 7:30 p.m.

“We were voting there until around 11 o’clock last night,” said Nicole Shumaker, Wake County’s deputy elections director. “And the reason for that was the early voting period for this primary coincided exactly with North Carolina State University’s spring break. So all those students were out of town during early voting.”
The new ID requirement "added more time to the process" in Durham County, reported WNCN. The problem was widespread:
Across the state, volunteers for Democracy NC spoke with people who reported trouble voting. Bob Hall, the group’s executive director, said voter ID laws appear to have been enforced differently throughout the state, that polling workers often appeared untrained or overworked, and that some voters reported they weren’t allowed to cast provisional ballots when a problem arose.

“All the problems from this primary will be far worse in the general election,” Hall said in a news release. His group has been a vocal opponent of the new ID laws.
The group's voter protection hotline received over 1,000 calls, “disproportionately from young people and students.” Democracy NC also cites this case on its web site:
A voter in Wake County only had a temporary driver’s license for today’s election. The poll worker at her polling location said she would have to cast a provisional ballot and it should count according to the state’s “reasonable impediment” law, but because the voter was not confident that her ballot would be counted, she returned home to get her passport which is a valid form of ID. The voter has voted in the same precinct and polling location for the last 20 years and never had a problem casting a ballot.
Charlie Pierce observed, "A democracy that does this to its citizens is no democracy at all." Then again, Donald Trump believes a country that doesn't erect barriers to exclude the wrong kind of people is no country at all. He'd feel right at home in the new North Carolina.