What Do These Two Ads Say About NC's Controversial Voting Law?

Jan 13, 2016

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP complained this week that state officials are misleading voters with their educational campaign about the state’s controversial election law. The measure will require voting officials to ask voters for photo identification.

The NAACP argues the ads should inform voters that they can cast ballots "with or without a photo ID. The board of election’s posters and flyers say, “Most voters will need to show acceptable photo ID.”

The NAACP, several voting groups and individual voters have sued the state in federal and local courts over a 2013 law that mandated all voters show identification at polling stations. Last year, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law that modified the requirement by allowing any voter to cast a ballot by signing an affidavit that says the voter had a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining identification. The law (drafted as House Bill 586) says the voter has to declare one of seven listed impediments or “other reasonable impediment."

The reasonable impediment declaration form provided by the State Board shall, at a minimum, include the following:

Separate boxes that a voter may check to identify the reasonable impediment, including at least the following:

a. Lack of transportation.
b. Disability or illness.
c. Lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to obtain photo identification.
d. Work schedule.
e. Family responsibilities.
f. Lost or stolen photo identification.
g. Photo identification applied for but not received by the voter voting in person.
h. Other reasonable impediment. If the voter checks the "other reasonable impediment" box, a further brief written identification of the reasonable impediment shall be required, including the option to indicate that State or federal law prohibits listing the impediment.

The NAACP and other groups claim the state’s advertisements about the new requirements could keep many people from voting booths in the March primaries and November general election. But State Board of Elections executive president Kim Strach says the state’s messaging in posters, flyers and television and radio ads, clearly explains the law: every voter will be asked to show identification.  

“If you have one, bring it,” Strach said in a statement. “But if you’re unable to obtain one, you can vote by absentee or at the polls with alternative identification.”

Credit North Carolina State Board of Elections

The alternative identification is the birthday and last four digits of the voter’s social security number. NC NAACP president William Barber says advertisements should say that any citizen can vote with or without identification. The NAACP and advocacy group Democracy North Carolina have produced this explainer.

Credit Democracy North Carolina

Even though the “reasonable impediment” option softened North Carolina’s Voter ID requirement, the law is still highly contested. A federal trial on the constitutionality of the law is scheduled to begin on January 25.