RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — While state election officials report a “smooth” rollout of the state’s new voter ID law this fall, they’re preparing to launch a more robust voter education campaign ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Voters went to the polls Tuesday in communities across North Carolina to cast their ballots in a variety of local races. Some municipalities held votes in September and October as well.
The NC State Board of Elections said that in those two previous rounds of voting, 40 voters did not have their votes count due to failure to comply with the voter ID law. There were nearly 100,000 votes cast in those two elections, according to data from NCSBE.
“Thus far we have not had a lot of problems. Of course, with so few municipalities involved we have not had a good pool of folks to measure,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the NC State Board of Elections, recently said.
Kate Fellman, who founded an organization called You Can Vote, has aimed to educate voters about the ever-changing legal requirements in North Carolina for voting. She’s concerned about some of the misconceptions she’s heard from voters, especially as the 2024 election draws near.
“This is a dry run, this municipal election. And, any of the little problems we see with this run, this cycle, it’s going to be amplified times 10 next year,” she said.
In Apex on Tuesday, Eugina Whalen had hoped to cast her first ballot since moving to North Carolina from Arizona earlier this year.
She showed up at her polling place ready to cast a vote for two of the people running for Apex Town Council but did not get the opportunity.
She explained that when she moved here, it took months to get an appointment at the DMV to get a North Carolina driver’s license, which she thought she would need to be able to vote. She figured when she went to get that license, that’s when she would register to vote too.
She finally got that license a few days ago, which was past the state’s voter registration deadline. Officials at her precinct told her she would not be able to vote in this election.
“Not in time,” she said. “I have faith that the right person will be elected.”
North Carolina has other options to register to vote that do not involve going to the DMV, including allowing voters to register and vote the same day during the early-voting period. For more details on the registration process, click here.
There are also a variety of IDs one can use that are compliant with the voter ID law. To see what IDs qualify, click here.
Fellman said as she looks ahead to 2024—when turnout will be much higher than this year—she wants to ensure groups like college students and new residents to the state have access to as much information as possible to understand their options for registering to vote and presenting an acceptable ID.
“It is confusing, but we want everyone to be able to cast that ballot,” she said. “It’s a full-time job on our end to keep up with these changing rules, to have materials that explain it without scaring people away of thinking voting is too hard.”
Following enactment of the state budget last month, the NC State Board of Elections is preparing to mount a campaign to educate voters through paid advertisements and other means about the voter ID requirement.
This will happen as a legal battle continues to play out in federal court.
The North Carolina NAACP led groups that sued the state in 2018 soon after the legislature enacted the voter ID law. That year, voters also approved an amendment to the state Constitution requiring a photo ID to vote.
Republican legislative leaders pushed for years to enact a voter ID requirement, saying it would help strengthen confidence in elections.
“We have said for years that voter ID is, one, a bad idea. But, two, it disenfranchises voters,” said Da’Quan Marcell Love, executive director of the NC NAACP. “What the NAACP and our branches across the state of North Carolina are seeing is confusion.”