Bipartisan legislation would ease some standards that identification cards for North Carolina colleges, universities and other institutions had to meet before they could be used as photo voter ID in next year's elections.
House Republicans and Democrats filed the bill, which also would give more time to colleges, government agencies and tribes to comply with those rules.
A late 2018 law implementing voter ID had directed the elections board to approve or reject cards by March 15. Board Executive Director Kim Strach said her office had to reject ID cards for students or students and employees at 12 of the 17 UNC system campuses, citing conflicts with the law.
This new legislation would give hundreds of institutions more time — the board would now act by Nov. 1 — to get their ID cards qualified for 2020 voting. Without the legislation, the institutions that fell short or declined to seek approval couldn't attempt to get their cards approved again until 2021.
When Republican legislators passed a law last month delaying requiring photo ID to vote until the 2020 elections, they declined to immediately extend the March 15 deadline for ID qualifying. But they said at the time they would review the issue.
"I promised last month that I would introduce legislation to ensure that additional IDs would have the chance to be approved, and this is the product of that effort," said Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and House Rules Committee chairman. Another Republican and two Democrats joined him as the bill sponsor.
The bill seeks to address situations where a student or employee has provided their own photo, rather than the institution or a contractor taking the photo. It also would give institutions more leeway in how they confirm a student's or worker's identity, which had required they check the person's Social Security number, citizenship status and birthdate.
The requirement also would take away language forcing institution leaders to affirm details of the photo identification process under penalty of perjury.
Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican who helped shepherd the voter ID requirement delay last month, said Senate Republicans agree with concepts in the House bill addressing the ID standards. Daniel had more questions, however, about an unrelated provision in the House measure that would give more flexibility to county boards of elections in how they offer early voting sites for municipal elections, which are held in odd-numbered years.
Less than 10% of the 850 schools, government agencies and tribes eligible to have their ID cards approved submitted requests before the March 15 deadline, Strach wrote in a letter to General Assembly leaders last month.