ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County residents can now go to the state Division of Motor Vehicles office to get a free state-issued voter ID photo card.
North Carolina started issuing the free photo identification cards last week in preparation for new voter requirements that become effective in 2016. The cards are being issued to people who don’t have other forms of photo identification that they can use to register to vote and show when they go to the polls.
The requirement that photo IDs be presented at the polls when a voter goes to cast their ballot doesn’t go into effect until the presidential election in 2016. That requirement is part of a sweeping 2013 election reform bill that was approved at the end of last year’s session of the General Assembly. The reform bill also changed dozens of other voting and campaign rules, including a reduction in the number of days for one-stop, early voting; elimination of same-day voting and voter registration during the early voting period; and an end to straight party ticket voting.
Marge Howell, a DMV spokesperson in Raleigh, said that statewide only six voters on Jan. 2 took advantage of the opportunity to go to a DMV office and get a photo voter ID. She could not say exactly which DMV offices had issued the IDs.
“We’re up and running and issuing the IDs to those who present the proper documentation … All offices statewide began issuing the IDs at 8 in the morning yesterday,” Howell said last week. “I’m sure that as we get closer to the 2016 election we will see more and more people statewide seeking IDs from motor vehicle offices statewide.”
According to Howell, an individual can apply to receive a free photo ID at any of the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles offices. The ID does not have to be applied for in the county in which one resides, she said.
“To receive a photo ID, one must be a registered voter and fill out an application stating that they have none of the other forms of photo IDs accepted for voting,” Howell said. “Like other licenses, the photo ID will be mailed to the home address of the voter.”
Groups including the U.S. Justice Department, the state chapter of the NAACP, and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina Board of Elections over the voting changes. A judge has said no trial will take place until after the 2014 elections.
Critics of the new laws generally say it is an effort by Republicans to suppress votes by minorities, the elderly and the young, who often vote Democratic. Republicans counter by saying the new laws are intended to protect the integrity of elections by combating fraud.