A Summary of North Carolina’s New Voter ID Law

Senator McKissick shares a summary and explanation of the new NC Voter ID Law which recently passed in the NC General Assembly

Today, the North Carolina Senate passed Senate Bill 824 which implements the recently passed constitutional amendment that allows for voter IDs beginning next year. The voter ID bill that passed 2nd reading today is far broader and more expansive than the bill that was stricken down in Federal Court as being unconstitutional several years ago. The bill passed today would allow for County Boards of Elections across our state to issue Voter Identification Cards to anyone who can provide their name, date of birth, and the last 4 digits of their social security number. The bill, as originally proposed, would’ve allowed these new Voter Identification Cards to expire 8 years after issuance. Today, I was able to obtain bi-partisan support for an amendment to the bill that extended the expiration date of these ID cards to 10 years. In addition, the amendment will require local Boards of Elections to send a notice to those who have the cards advising them that their cards will expire 90 days in advance of an ID’s expiration date. In addition, the amendment would not require a voter to present an ID if they were in an area which had experienced a natural disaster within 100 days of an election. Initially, a 60-day window was proposed.

In addition to these new Voter Identification Cards, a person could present the following forms of ID:

  • A Valid NC Driver’s License
  • A Special Identification Card issued by the NC Division of Motor Vehicles
  • A Valid US Passport
  • A Valid Tribal Enrollment Card issued by a Federally Recognized Tribe
  • A Student Identification Card from a State University or Public Community College in NC
  • Student Identification Cards from Private Universities or Colleges would be accepted if they met certain standards as well
  • A Valid Driver’s License or Special Identification Card issued by another state, however, it would only be useful if the voter’s registration has occurred within 90 days of an election.
  • A Military Identification Card issued by the United States government
  • A Veterans Identification Card issued by the US Department of Veteran Affairs

All of the above forms of identification would need to be valid and unexpired, or, it must’ve been expired for one year or less, however, if a voter was 65 years old at the time he or she presented the ID, and the ID card was unexpired on the voter’s 65th birthday, then it would be acceptable.

In addition to the amendment which I ran, Senator Warren Daniel ran an amendment to correct another issue I was concerned about which involved circumstances and standards under which a voter without an ID could sign a Reasonable Impediment Declaration Form which would allow them to vote without an ID. Senator Daniel agreed to use standards that provided greater specificity than those that appeared initially in the current bill.

While I oppose a voter ID requirement, It is now, however, the law of the State of NC and a part of our state’s constitution. Therefore, our challenge is to make sure that as many people who are lawfully registered to vote today will be able to continue to vote in the future, and that their access to photo ID’s or understanding exceptions where an ID would not be required is absolutely imperative. I will continue to work to protect the cherished constitutional right to vote so that we minimize those that are hindered by this new law.

Special Session of the NCGA Called to Discuss Hurricane Florence Relief

A Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly Where Bipartisan Support of Hurricane Relief Ruled the Day

Today, a Special Session of the NC General Assembly was called by Governor Cooper to consider two bills which are necessary as a result of Hurricane Florence. Senate Bill 2, titled School Calendar & Pay/Hurricane Florence, would allow public schools in counties which had received a federal disaster assistance declaration to reduce the number of hours of instructions to students attending public schools in the designated counties. It would allow school districts the flexibility to make up some days of missed classes, however, these districts could actually waive up to 20 days of missed classes if it was necessary to do so. While I support this legislation, I did raise questions during committee discussions relating to how we can provide students in these districts with opportunities to take additional classes during the summer months or during other occasions. I do not want to see our students academically shortchanged and placed at a competitive disadvantage because they missed up to a month of classes in some of these districts. These students would also be placed at a competitive disadvantage end of grade tests. This bill provided $6.5 million dollars to provide compensation for school lunch employees whose compensation is normally provided for through school lunch receipts and federal funds on instructional days.

The other bill which was passed was House Bill 4, titled Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act. This bill appropriated $56.5 million dollars for hurricane relief. Included within this figure was the $6.5 million dollars for the school lunch employees hereinabove. These funds would currently be directed towards 28 counties which have been designated under the major disaster declaration issued by the federal government. In addition, this bill extended the deadline for voter registration applications from October 12th, 2018 until October 15th, 2018 at 5:00 pm. It also provided County Boards of Election to provide for a substitution of a one-stop voting site if it was unanimously agreed upon by the local County Board of Elections. The bill also allowed County Boards of Election to alter voting places for Election Day if the change was for the purpose of providing a substitute location for a voting precinct damaged by Hurricane Florence. Local Boards of Elections must provide notice to voters of these changes in the most expedient manner possible which may include public service announcements, print, radio, television, online and social media. It would have been great if the bill could have allowed greater flexibility for people who have been displaced by Hurricane Florence to apply for, obtain, and submit absentee ballots, however, that was not included in the bill.

There were also funds provided in this bill to address the emergence of large populations of mosquitos in floodwater-impacted areas. Lastly, there were opportunities for the governor to waive the collection of certain motor vehicle fees for residents in these impacted counties in the event that a person perhaps needed a duplicate driver’s license or other similar types of documents that might have been lost as a result of Hurricane Florence. Fortunately, there was unanimous support in the Senate for both of these bills. I only wish that we could see such bipartisanship on other occasions.

Party Affiliation Must Be Shown for NC Supreme Court Candidates

Wake County Superior Court Judge Rules that Party Affiliation Must Be Shown for NC Supreme Court Candidates

Yesterday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Becky Holt overturned a law recently passed in a Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly which prohibited the party affiliation of NC Supreme Court Candidates from being shown on this November’s ballot if the candidate had changed his/her party affiliation within 90 days of running for office. The Republican majority had passed this bill after they discovered there would be two Republicans running for a seat on the NC Supreme Court, and only one Democrat, Anita Earls.

Chris Anglin, a Republican, had brought a lawsuit to keep his Republican Party affiliation on the ballot as well as Rebecca Edwards, a Democrat who was running to become a District Court Judge in Wake County. The judge ruled that, as to these two candidates, that their party affiliations when they filed to run for office must appear on the ballot. I am gratified by Judge Holt’s decision even though I am sure that it is likely to be appealed to a higher court. I would like to state that before the Republican majority passed a bill eliminating judicial primaries, I pointed out in committee meetings and in debate on the Senate floor that they were opening up the door for having potentially multiple Republicans and multiple Democrats running for the same seats, but they did not seem to care much about it at that point when they thought it would be multiple Democrats running against only one Republican. I also argued against making judicial races partisan at all since we should always seek the best judges, regardless of party affiliation. Maybe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will stop trying to write the rules simply to favor their candidates and the odds of them winning an election or changing the rules once they have been written simply to favor their candidates of choice.

July 24th Special Session Bills Impact on Upcoming Elections

Updates from the July 24th Special Session

House Bill 3 would limit public knowledge and understanding of proposed amendments.

Today, a bill was filed and introduced known as “House Bill 3” titled “Ballot Designations/Referenda.” The sole purpose of the bill was to eliminate the power of a commission currently composed of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, and Paul Coble, a Republican who’s in charge of legislative services at the General Assembly, from writing a brief caption or synopsis of each of the six constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November’s General Election. This means that the public will not have any context or understanding of these amendments. As it currently stands, the language that will appear relating to each constitutional amendment is vague, obscure, and, in many instances, disguises the true purpose and intent of each of the constitutional amendments. Therefore, voters could be persuaded and misled into voting for an amendment because they are worded in a way that might lead someone to believe that they were a good idea. This type of intentional voter deception is problematic and unfortunate. The true purpose of these amendments is for the Republican majority to do messaging around them that will increase the turnout of their base voters in November.

The Republican majority is afraid that, without these constitutional amendments on the ballot to drive out their base, Democrats have an excellent opportunity to break the Republican supermajority and to potentially take the majority in this year’s General Election. I hope that voters will be smart enough not to be persuaded by these type of tactics. Two of these amendments are specifically targeted at undercutting the authority of Governor Cooper and future governors to appoint persons serving on over 400 boards and commissions as well as appointing judges in our state in a manner in which it has been conducted for decades. This is why former governors, both Republicans and Democrats, are opposed to the idea of amendments curtailing the power of our governor, which is already weaker than many states.

Senate Bill 3 will impact Judicial Candidates in Upcoming Election

In addition to House Bill 3, there was also another bill introduced today known as Senate Bill 3, which passed the Senate. The primary purpose of Senate Bill 3 was to eliminate Republican competition in the race for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Barbara Jackson, who is a Republican serving on the court, is being challenged by Anita Earls, who is a Democrat, and announced her candidacy early this year after the Republican majority made judicial races partisan. Anita was well-regarded and respected as an attorney due to her successful challenges of laws enacted by the General Assembly that were determined to be unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Last year, the Republican majority also eliminated judicial primaries, therefore, it was possible for more than one Democrat or more than one Republican to seek positions at the same time in the General Election.

When the judicial filing period opened in June, Christopher Anglin announced that he was seeking a seat on the NC Supreme Court as a Republican. This would’ve meant that two Republicans were both running for the same seat that Anita Earls, a Democrat, was running for which would have likely increased her chances of winning. Therefore, today, Senate Bill 3 was introduced which was specifically targeted at Christopher Anglin, since he was previously registered as a Democrat before he decided to run for a seat on the NC Supreme Court. Senate Bill 3 essentially states that a candidate who changed his party affiliation within 90 days of filing for office would not be listed as running as a Republican or as a Democrat, or even as an Independent. The person would have no party affiliation next to their name, or they would be allowed to withdraw from the race altogether.

During debate on the floor of the Senate, it was clear that this was the purpose of Senate Bill 3, even though the bill theoretically applies to all judicial candidates in the State of North Carolina. When I asked today in the Rules Committee whether the bill sponsor or any person with our State Board of Elections could identify how many candidates would be impacted by this bill, no one could provide a number, and the only person identified was Christopher Anglin. During debate on the floor today of the Senate, another candidate in Wake County was identified as potentially being impacted by this bill as well.

I ran an amendment today that would require the State Board of Elections to provide notice to all judicial candidates of this new law via e-mail, telephonic communications, written notice, or by other electronic means as expeditiously as possible. This amendment was adopted as a part of the bill. Hopefully, if there are other candidates impacted, then they will find out how this bill impacts them in an expedient manner. It is absolutely wrong and unconscionable to change an important rule of this type after the filing period for a position has opened and closed simply because the General Assembly is not happy with the party affiliation of the candidates who had filed. I am positive that if two Democrats were seeking the position on the NC Supreme Court and only 1 Republican had filed, then we would not have been brought back to change the law. Please, this is one further reason why we must come out this November and vote to take back our state and to change the makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Another Special Session of the NC General Assembly

Even though the General Assembly adjourned less than a month ago with plans, at that time, to reconvene on November 27th after the General Election, today, a notice was sent to legislators advising them that tomorrow we will reconvene for a Special Session months in advance for the purpose of crafting special language to describe the six constitutional amendments which will be placed before voters for consideration. There is already proposed language in the bills relating to each of these amendments, however, the Republican majority in the General Assembly does not want to leave it to anyone other than themselves to craft the final language.

Most disturbing is the fact that most of these amendments will be deceptively described in ways that will not reveal their true intent or purpose. For example, there is an amendment dealing with the creation of a new bipartisan election and ethics board. The problem is the governor in this state has always had the power to appoint these members in the past, but more importantly, additional language in the amendment would eliminate Governor Cooper’s ability to appoint members to over 400 boards and commissions. This is one of the reasons why prior governors, both Republican and Democrat, are opposing this amendment including Republican Governors Pat McCrory and Jim Martin.

Another proposed amendment would allow the NC General Assembly to review and select individuals which the governor could appoint to judicial vacancies. The General Assembly would have the responsibility of recommending two people for each position which the governor could select from. Currently, the governor selects from a list of 5 persons recommended by local bar associations, which have Democratic and Republican members, to fill vacancies. Once again, the governor is the loser regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is serving in the future.

Today, I was interviewed with Rep. David Lewis to discuss this upcoming Special Session for a segment on the Capital Tonight program where the host is Loretta Boniti. It will be broadcast tonight at 7:00 pm and at 12:00 am (midnight).