RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina colleges can’t guarantee that student identifications will meet the state’s new legal requirements for voting by mid-March, raising doubts about whether thousands of young adults could be blocked from the ballot box.
None of the state’s public or private universities and community colleges have confirmed that their student IDs meet required conditions, state elections board spokesman Pat Gannon said Tuesday. March 15 is the deadline for campuses to ensure student IDs are secure for voting purposes, though legislation introduced in the General Assembly on Monday would postpone that until September.
The top lawyer for the University of North Carolina system, Thomas Shanahan, did not respond when asked to clarify why none of the 16 public campuses meet all ID security requirements. Identifications are issued to some students ineligible to vote, including foreign citizens and those under 18, UNC system spokesman Josh Ellis said in an email.
“UNC System institutions continue to work through these and other requirements of the law. They are also working to identify ways to assist in obtaining valid photo ID for those students and employees who need it, in the event that institutionally-issued IDs cannot be certified for use by the March deadline,” Ellis wrote in an email.
North Carolina Wesleyan College — a private, four-year liberal arts school with about 1,200 students in Rocky Mount — will be unable “to meet the important checks and balances as required to properly implement this program,” school security director J. Wayne Sears wrote to the elections board this month. Sears didn’t respond to messages asking what barriers to compliance the school faced.
State law requires the chancellor, president, or registrar of the state’s universities and colleges to confirm at the risk of facing felony perjury charges that their IDs meet several security requirements. Those conditions include that the school confirms a student’s identity by checking their social security number, citizenship status and birthdate during enrollment.
Watauga County Democratic Rep. Ray Russell, a sponsor of the postponement bill, told reporters Tuesday he didn’t know for sure the specific problems that would prevent UNC system officials from affirming the requirement by the deadline, except that more time was needed.
“I’ll let them speak for themselves and those concerns,” Russell said.
GOP Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, who shepherded voter ID laws last year, said later Tuesday he was ready to address any “misunderstanding” that higher education institutions might have about the law so that they “can help students have this option to protect their access to voting.”
North Carolina voters in November approved as an addition to the state constitution that IDs must be shown when voting in person. In December, legislators approved implementing laws that spelled out which IDs would be accepted to vote, including whether student IDs would count.
On Friday, a Wake County judge ruled constitutional amendments mandating photo identification to vote and a second issue were invalid because federal courts had declared that legislators designed their district in ways that illegally favored politicians. The ruling doesn’t specifically cancel the December law outlining the voter ID requirements. But the decision calls into question whether it will stand.
Attorneys for Republican legislative leaders filed quickly an appeal notice and on Tuesday asked the judge to block his own ruling during the appeal process, saying it would breed confusion and cast doubts on whether laws passed for the 18 months concluding in December are illegitimate as well.