All North Carolina voters will be asked for their IDs when they check in to vote this year. They will still be allowed to vote with or without a photo ID under an exception.
Most voters will use their North Carolina driver’s license, but there are ways to vote if you don’t have an ID or yours is expired. This is a quick guide to the rules — and the exceptions — from the State Board of Elections.
What are the acceptable IDs?
List of IDs that count if unexpired or expired for one year or less:
- North Carolina driver’s license
- U.S. passport book/U.S. passport card
- State ID from N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (“nonoperator ID”)
- N.C. voter photo ID card, issued by a county board of elections
- College/university student ID approved by state
- Board of Elections
- Charter school employee ID approved by state
- State/local government employee ID approved by State Board of Elections
- Drivers license/nondriver ID from another state, the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory
List of IDs that count regardless of expiration date:
- Military or veteran ID card issued by the U.S. government
- Tribal enrollment card issued by a state or federally recognized tribe
- ID card issued by a U.S. government agency or the state of North Carolina for a public assistance program
Do student and employee IDs count?
Only the ones approved for voting will count. The State Board of Elections approved 100 student and employee identification cards across the state for use in the 2023 municipal elections and 2024 primary and general elections in North Carolina. View the list here. See also the information sheet on voting as a college student in North Carolina.
What if I show up to vote without a photo ID?
You are still allowed to vote under an exception. If this occurs, you will vote with a provisional ballot and fill out an ID Exception Form. If you’re voting absentee-by-mail, fill out the ID Exception Form with your ballot.
Here are the exceptions that qualify a voter to vote without a photo ID:
- The voter has a reasonable impediment to showing a photo ID. Here’s what counts as a reasonable impediment:
- Lack of transportation
- Disability or illness
- Lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to obtain ID
- Work or school schedule
- Family responsibilities
- Photo ID is lost, stolen or misplaced
- Applied for photo ID but have not received it
- (For mail voters only) Unable to attach a copy of photo ID (Voter must include driver’s license number or last four digits of Social Security number)
- Other reasonable impediments (If selected, the voter must write the reason on the form)
- State or federal law prohibits voters from listing the reason
- The voter has a religious objection to being photographed.
- The voter was a victim of a natural disaster within 100 days of Election Day that resulted in a disaster declaration by the president of the United States or the governor of North Carolina.
What if I don’t qualify for any of these exceptions?
You can still fill out a provisional ballot. Then, you are required to bring an acceptable ID to the county elections office by the day before the post-election county canvass. For municipal elections in September and October, this deadline is the Monday following Election Day. For all other elections, the deadline is the second Thursday following Election Day.
Does the address on the photo ID have to match the voter registration records?
No, the address on the photo ID does not have to match the voter registration records for in-person voters.
What if I’m voting absentee by mail?
Mail voters will place a photocopy of their ID in a pocket on the outside of the ballot container envelope, which is then placed in an outer return envelope to protect voter privacy. There is an exception for mail-in voters who are unable to attach it to the mailed absentee ballot.
What if I don’t have a photo ID?
You can get one from two places: your county board of elections or the NCDMV.
For county boards of elections: County boards will be issuing free voter photo IDs during early voting. They will NOT be issuing IDs between the last day of early voting and Election Day. To obtain one, visit your county board of elections during business hours. To be issued a free voter photo ID card, you must provide your name, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number, and have your photo taken.
You can also get a free ID card from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. Visit an NCDMV driver license office with these required documents:
- One document verifying age and identity
- A Social Security card or one document proving they have a Social Security number
- For U.S. citizens, one document proving residency
- For non-U.S. citizens, one document issued by the U.S. government indicating legal presence
Will my vote count if I fill out an ID exception form?
Yes, if the form is filled out properly by an eligible registered voter. The ballot may only be rejected if the bipartisan county board of elections unanimously decides that the voter provided false information on the form. According to Patrick Gannon, the NCSBE public information director, a decision that the form is false can only be made after the county board provides the voter with notice and an opportunity to be heard. The decision must also be in writing and identify the specific basis for the county board’s conclusion.
What if my appearance has changed from the picture on the photo ID?
The photo on the ID should “reasonably resemble” the voter. Even if the election worker checking you in does not believe the photo reasonably resembles you, you can still vote regularly, unless the judges of election at the polling place unanimously agree that the photo does not reasonably resemble you. If that happens, you can still vote, just with a provisional ballot.
What does the law say?
The photo ID laws are found in the following statutes and rules, which state that a registered voter is required to present a photo ID when voting in person or by mail and outline the exceptions detailed above:
- Voter photo identification cards. N.C.G.S. § 163-82.8A
- Requirement for photo identification to vote in person. N.C.G.S. § 163-166.16
- Approval of student identification cards for voting identification. N.C.G.S. § 163-166.17
- Approval of employee identification cards for voting identification N.C.G.S. § 163-166.18
- Simultaneous issuance of absentee ballots with application. N.C.G.S. § 163-230.1(f1) & (g)
- Verification of Photo Identification During In-Person Voting 08 NCAC 17 .0101
- Photo Identification for Absentee-By-Mail Ballots 08 NCAC 17 .0109
Source: N.C State Board of Elections
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This article is part of U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative on Sept. 15, the International Day of Democracy, in which news organizations cover how democracy works and the threats it faces. To learn more, visit usdemocracyday.org.