Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina?

The short answer is no. Only persons voting in person must show ID.

From the comments to this post showing differences by party of same day registration/voting as compared to absentee via mail voting was the following comment (shown in full):

It could be argued, of course, that the Obama vote totals in both ’08 and ’12 were unjustly enriched from a no-ID policy, if one believes that matching an ID to the vote is an appropriate regulation in a democratic system. The new law, in this view, would correct the “over-vote” for that candidate.

I’d be interested in knowing whether the presentation of an ID in order to obtain or register a mail-in ballot is a requirement under the new law.

The only form of voting under the new North Carolina election law that does not require an ID to be shown to someone to legally vote is absentee mail voting. From the text of the H589:


SECTION 2.1. Article 14A of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

“§ 163‑166.13. Photo identification requirement for voting in person.

(a) Every qualified voter voting in person in accordance with this Article, G.S. 163‑227.2, or G.S. 163‑182.1A shall present photo identification bearing any reasonable resemblance to that voter to a local election official at the voting place before voting, except as follows: [bold emphasis added by me above]

The requirement to show an ID in vote is limited to those voting in person, with an allowance made for curbside voting outside a precinct where a poll worker comes to the car (this is considered in person). If you request an absentee ballot you do have to provide some identifying information in written form; options include providing a NC DL number, the last 4 digits of a Social Security number, etc [see § 163‑230.2. (4)].

SECTION 4.1.  G.S. 163‑229(b) of the law begins a lengthy section governing absentee ballots. There are a couple of notable changes.

  • The voter no longer has to personally write out the request for an absentee ballot or use a form created by a county board of election to request an absentee ballot. Now the form requesting an absentee ballot can only come from the State Board of Elections, but can be a pre-printed form (not written out by voter). In the past, if someone other than the voter or close family member/legal guardian wrote out the request for an absentee ballot, that would constitute fraud. This appears to open up campaigns bringing the absentee request form to voters. See § 163‑230.2. (a)
  • The voter now has to sign the absentee ballot (as before) but now two people must sign and say they saw them vote, as I read it.

The first bullet point is an expansion that makes absentee voting easier from an electioneering standpoint (having an elderly voter hand write a request that was fairly detailed was time consuming; if you did it for them, it was fraud).

The second bullet point requiring two witnesses to view the votes is a tightening. A further tightening is found in SECTION 4.6.(a)  G.S. 163‑226.3(a)(4) that refers to places like nursing homes no longer being able to have managers or workers in Nursing Homes help voters get absentee ballots for residents/patients. The law says “multi-partisan teams” will go out to such places and help folks get absentee ballots. The application of this approach could be quite different across counties, and within parts of counties. I don’t get the ban on workers at Nursing Homes, etc helping residents vote. The people who the State trusts to care for people in Nursing Homes can’t be trusted to help them vote?

It is a long and complicated bill, soon to be law. Read it for yourself.

update: I revised the post to note that in the past, a close family member of a legal guardian could have written out the request for an absentee ballot. Thanks for commenter who flagged this error in the post.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

7 Responses to Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina?

  1. Martha Brock says:

    Good info. Thanks for this explanation.

  2. Andria says:

    One correction (and I know how hard it is to sift existing law from new restrictions):
    “In the past, if someone other than the voter wrote out the request for an absentee ballot, that would constitute fraud.”
    Untrue. Close family members could request absentee ballots previously.

    Here’s the part of the law:

  3. Sheila Beaudry says:

    What about that says ID is required for absentee voting?

  4. Sheila Beaudry says:

    This has been passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

  5. Pingback: How Democrats can reclaim North Carolina government : NC SPIN Balanced Debate for the Old North State

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