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.

Update on Durham, NC Absentee v Same Day Register Voting

Following up on yesterday’s post, I managed to get some data for the share of Same Day Registration and Voting during early voting by party (in 2008 from SBOE; 3rd link from top), and the party breakdown of Absentee voting in Durham County, North Carolina (from the 2012 election; received from the Durham Board of Elections by email). I compiled a table below. You can see that people registering as unaffiliated had a similar share of Absentee mail voting in 2012, and same day registration and voting during 2008 (I can’t find this broken down by party of registration for 2012), but that Republicans were much less likely to use same day registration/voting, with Democrats being more likely. Same day registration and voting during the early voting period is now gone. Absentee voting by mail remains. If someone showed an ID as everyone will now have to do, why not allow same day registration and voting? The effect of ending same day registration and voting by party is fairly clear, in Durham County, North Carolina, at least.

Party Share by Absentee Mail & Same Day Register/Vote
Durham County, North Carolina
Mail Same Day
2012 2008
Party N % N %
Dem 2355 46.9 2729 59
Rep 1267 25.3 580 12.5
Una 1381 27.5 1295 28
Liber 13           <1 18           <1
Total 5016 4622

The potential impact of one voting change in Durham, N.C.

The North Carolina General Assembly is set to enact a sweeping series of changes to the voting laws. The most high profile change has been the requirement to show an ID to vote. Nate Cohn says the requirement to show an ID would have reduced President Obama’s total in North Carolina by 25,000-30,000 votes, had the proposed law been in effect in 2012. Gov Romney won North Carolina by around 92,000 votes in 2012, but President Obama won North Carolina by ~14,000 votes in 2008.

Below, I estimate that in Durham County, North Carolina alone, President Obama would have had a net reduction of at least 2,460 votes if voters had been unable to register and vote on the same day during early voting; the bill that is about to become law ends this option. I cannot find the data for the same analysis below, conducted statewide.

I could not find information on the number of persons who registered and voted on the same day on the State Board of Elections site (they are included in early vote totals; did I miss it anyone?).  So, I emailed the Durham Board of elections and asked them for this information for the 2012 election and they emailed it to me. What is written below is for Durham County, North Carolina, only, a Democratic Party bastion.

In 2012, 147,497 people voted in Durham County, and 4,766 of them registered and voted on the same day during early voting (3.2% of the votes cast). None of these votes would have been allowed under the new law. Some more detail to place this number in context for Durham.

Link to Durham County, N.C. 2012 election totals (you can find all numbers below at this link except for the 4,766 emailed to me as noted above):

  • 147,497 people voted (only 38,897, or 26.3% of them voted on election day)
  • 102,142 voted in person during early voting
  • 4,766 of the 102,142 (4.7% of in person, early votes) registered and voted on same day during the early voting period. This will no longer be allowed under the new law.
  • 5,015 voted via absentee mail ballot (provision unchanged in the new law)
  • 1,442 voted via approved provisional votes (they came from both early voting, election day, and mail in absentee)

I asked the Durham Board of Elections for the proportion of same day registration/voting that registered by Party, but was told they had not compiled this information for 2012; I am checking to see if it is available for 2008.

President Obama won 75.8% of the vote in Durham County in 2012, so using this share to apply to this registration/voting on the same day would mean 3,613 lost votes for the President, and 1,153 for someone else, for a net reduction of votes from President Obama of 2,460 if the new rules were in place in 2012. I suspect that a far higher share of the 4,766 persons who registered and voted on the same day voted for the President, based on how much more organized the Obama GOTV effort was in Durham compared to the Romney campaign’s (understatement of the year) but would like to answer the question definitively with data.

These are the results for 1 county, for one provision that has changed. I would like to see this analysis statewide, but don’t want to do it! There are many other changes, but I haven’t looked at those here.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was very active in the GOTV efforts for the Obama campaign as chronicled in prior posts (here and here).

North Carolina tax reform options

Scott Drenkard and Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation outline four tax reform options for North Carolina that are based on a report financed by the Carolina Business Coalition. The link noted in the News and Observer op-ed doesn’t make it to the full report; I will add it and read it when I can find it (update: here is study).

I like the way that the op-ed lays out four options that they claim each raise the same amount of revenue as the current tax code (with the proviso that I haven’t read the full report; I am taking what they say at face value for the time being). As I have written about federal tax reform, the most important decision is how much revenue you intend to collect; then you legitimately move to the issues of fairness, impact on growth, and the like. There is no need touting an idea that cannot raise the revenue being targeted.

The op-ed highlights four options. Again, they say that each will raise the same amount of revenue as the current tax code and they  focus on the growth side impacts; issues of distribution and fairness are also important. I would also note that progressivity/notions of fairness are also influenced on the spending side, so the state’s decision on the Medicaid expansion will become very important in how any tax reform is viewed.

• “Option A” makes North Carolina the most pro-growth tax system in the country, simplifying the personal income tax at 6 percent, lowering the statewide sales tax to 3.5 percent while expanding its base to services, and repealing the corporate income and franchise taxes.

• “Option B” keeps all the major taxes, but simplified and at low rates: a 5 percent income tax, 5 percent sales tax and 5 percent corporate tax. A similar positive reform was adopted in Utah, contributing to its economic success.

• “Option C” would eliminate taxes on individual and corporate income and broaden the sales tax base to services to make up the revenue. The total state sales tax rate would have to be raised to 8.75 percent to fully fund current levels of state spending, but the benefit of this option is that North Carolina would be one of the few states with no taxes on investment or job creation.

• “Option D” eliminates taxes on retail sales and corporate income, paying for these reductions with a single, simple tax on individual income at a flat 10 percent rate.

By the way, if you think all these options sound “easy” read this.

Comments on North Carolina setting up an exchange

I was Tim Boyum’s guest on Capital Tonight earlier this week and we talked about North Carolina’s options for setting up a health insurance exchange. My comments are from the 11:00-16:45 minute mark.

Yesterday, Governor Perdue announced that N.C. would move ahead with a federal/state partnership approach to an exchange, with the N.C. Department of Insurance focusing on “the consumer side.” Lots of details to be sorted out, and incoming Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly still have full options available in the future (full state-based exchange, partnership or a federal exchange).

Here is a link to my series about North Carolina’s implementation of the ACA.

N.C. Gov. Perdue takes a step ahead on exchanges

Outgoing Governor Bev Perdue today announced that North Carolina will move ahead with a federal/state partnership model for a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Perdue, a Democrat, said she consulted with Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and chose a state-federal partnership to operate the health insurance exchange required by the Affordable Care Act….

This provides flexibility for the Gov. elect Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to keep the partnership, move toward a fully state run exchange, or revert to a federally run one.

“This decision allows him (McCrory) the opportunity to then, in his own good time, make a decision that will be permanent for the state,” Perdue said.

I am writing a series of posts on the move toward implementing the health reform law in North Carolina.

Will N.C. Implement Obamacare-II What is an Exchange?

This is the second post in my series Will North Carolina Implement Obamacare? Here is the introductory post. This post addresses the question, “what is an insurance exchange?”

The big idea is to set up a market place where consumers can shop for private health insurance policies. A health insurance exchange is a website through which individuals or small businesses can purchase health insurance with subsidies from the federal government that are based on your income. Typically, paper and phone enrollment options are also available. In Massachusetts, the health insurance market available to individuals and small businesses created by Romneycare is called The Connector.

The goal of an exchange is to provide information about insurance choices (premiums, deductibles, physicians in a network, extra benefits, etc.) to consumers in a way that helps them make the best coverage choice for them. If you have picked an employer based health insurance plan, then you may have used a similar web interface that guides your choice (here is Duke University’s). An exchange will provide a place where an heretofore uninsured North Carolinian can purchase the plan of their choice without having to worry about being denied coverage because they are sick.

N.C. could decide to develop its own version of an exchange, in much the same way Massachusetts built its Connector,and California is well down the road to creating one. However, we also can decide to let the federal government create an exchange in our state. A federal exchange will piggy back on the infrastructure that is now used by Medicare beneficiaries living in N.C. who decide to enroll in one of Medicare’s private insurance-based options (known as Medicare Advantage).  Below is a example of two Medicare Advantage plans available in zip code 27705 (Durham NC), shown just to give a sense of the type of information that must be communicated in an exchange (there are many plans available in 27705; this is just to give you a taste).

The first plan requires no premium beyond what is paid by Medicare to the private insurance company, while the second requires an individual to pay a $29/month additional premium. The consumer has to decide whether the extra premium is worth it. And so it will be in an exchange that is created by the implementation of the ACA. The point is to provide information to to consumers so that they can pick the plan that is best for them.

North Carolina could decide to set up our own exchange, in which case North Carolinians will be making the myriad choices and decisions required to operationalize an exchange for our State. My next post in this series will delve more deeply into the pros and cons of a state v. a federal exchange.

Will North Carolina implement Obamacare?

I am going to do a series of posts looking at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare in North Carolina. Surely one of the key goals of the Obama administration’s second term is to see through the implementation of the law in states who have heretofore been opposed. A key question is whether they will be successful in convincing such states to move ahead?

Similarly, a key question for Republican politicians who have been opposed to the law until now is whether they will continue to be opposed, or move ahead with implementation? If they remain opposed, can they provide a better alternative?

Republicans in North Carolina beginning in the Summer of 2010 consistently said they believed Obamacare to be unconstitutional and I take them at their word that they believed this to be true. However, the Supreme Court of the United States disagreed in June, 2012. After that, to the extent that health policy was discussed at all in the recent elections in our state, Republicans said that President Romney would repeal Obamacare on day one, so why move ahead with implementation plans, or even contemplate them? Now that will not occur.

So, what will the new Republican Governor and Republican-controlled General Assembly actually do as they move to govern our state? First, we have some extra time in deciding about whether to set up a state-based insurance exchange in which North Carolinians can purchase private insurance with income based federal subsidies. And even if the federal government initially sets up an exchange which seems likely (that would be similar to the way state based Medicare Advantage plans are offered for sale in N.C.) there will be time to shift to a state based exchange later.

Regarding the potential to expand Medicaid under financially advantageous terms to our state, Republican leaders wisely kept their options open during the campaign and said little about this choice.

As the new Republican majorities in the state move toward governing, it is important to keep in mind the most important question in evaluating any given public policy: what is the counter-factual? Put another way, as compared to what? It is easy to say we don’t want to expand Medicaid, but very hard to figure out a way to provide health insurance to 500,000 North Carolinians in financially advantageous terms.

The process of governing a state tends to be quite practical. The question that should be on the tip of your tongue in considering whether our state will implement Obamacare should be ‘what is the alternative plan to provide health insurance to the 1.3 Million uninsured North Carolinians?’


Coming posts below (if there is a topic you want to see covered, email me and I will try)

Introduction-what is the counter-factual? (this post)

What is a health insurance exchange? (Nov. 15, 2012)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a state-based exchange?

How many North Carolinians are likely to be covered by a health insurance exchange?

Should N.C. create a state-based exchange or allow the federal government to set up an exchange in our state?

How many persons would be covered by the Obamacare Medicaid expansion?

Are there non-health reasons to expand Medicaid?

How is insurance coverage expansion linked to cost control?

A few GOTV thoughts

A few odds and ends on the election and GOTV that I wanted to write down.

  • I was heavily involved in “get out the vote” (GOTV) efforts in Durham N.C. for the Obama campaign, as I was in 2008.
  • We were thinking we needed a +85,000-90,000 vote margin for the President in Durham county for him to have a chance to win the state. He ended up with ~76,000 margin before provisionals, up from ~71,000 in 2008, but a bit short of our goal. He lost N.C. by ~100,000 votes.
  • Turnout was lower in Durham County this time (~68% v. ~75% in 2008).
  • Turnout was disappointingly low in some key precincts for the President to have had a chance at +85,000-90,000. In particular, precincts 05, 13-15, and 18 were disappointing (05 less than 50% and the others lower than 60%).
  • We tried to have consistency in canvassing (door to door turnout appeals). I walked and knocked on doors of the same turf in the same precinct the last 4 Friday late afternoons/evenings of the campaign, in each case seeking to talk to ~50 voters in that turf who had been identified by a statistical model as the ~50 people least likely to vote in that turf, who had expressed preference for President Obama in some way. The first Friday was the week prior to early voting, and the last 3 were during early voting when I had a driver to call to provide a ride immediately if someone was willing to go and vote. Once someone voted, they dropped off the knock list (electronically updated within about 24 hours using online election board data). So, all the people weren’t always the same, but in some cases I personally talked to the same person 3 or 4 times before they actually voted. Some essentially voted out of self preservation (Oh, you again).
  • During the last week of early voting, my colleague Gunter Peck developed a brilliant idea for a canvassing/drive operation–the Durham bus terminal. We asked people if they wanted a ride to the early vote stop that was near the bus terminal, and drove people to vote and back to the bus stop, typically before their connecting bus left. On election day, we canvassed and drove people from the bus terminal to vote and then their job in the morning, and in the afternoon/evening typically to vote and then to their home. We knew where to drive them by simply checking the online voter registration database (took about 30 seconds per voter). We had ~10 and 25 canvassers/drivers at the bus terminal on election day depending upon the time, and drove several hundred people, most of whom had no plan to vote, but who were registered supporters of the President.
  • A canvass/drive operation like this will work best where you have an aggregation of voters with almost unanimous support for your candidate. I would guess about 95% of the folks riding the bus in Durham were Obama supporters, and our goal was to increase the likelihood they voted.
  • The bottom line of GOTV is to be willing to engage individuals and to ask them for their vote. In this way, I understand GOTV to be a sign of respect–that a person is worthy of being asked for their support. Asking actual people to vote and making it as easy as possible is the key to GOTV.

It was a disappointing loss, but we new it would be hard to repeat the narrow win of 2008 (President Obama won by ~14,000 votes out of 4.3 Million cast). N.C. was the closest win for President Obama in 2008 as well as the closest win for Gov. Romney in 2012. All in all, working on the campaign was important and fun.

update: edited for clarity.

Why I take the N.C. election personally

This is a personal story.

I am a strong supporter of President Obama primarily because I agree with his policy views, and I think his re-election provides the best chance for the best policy going forward. However, my support of him does not explain why I have worked so hard on the grassroots “get out the vote” aspects of his campaigns in 2008 and again this year (I didn’t go door-to-door for President Clinton, or for VP Gore or Sen Kerry).

The reason is encapsulated in this television commercial, the so-called “Hands” ad that appeared in the 1990 North Carolina Senate race between Senator Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt.

Like most kids, I voted like my parents, who are fairly conservative (but I should note not the least bit racist; in fact, the opposite) and so-voted for the re-election of President George HW Bush in 1988, the first time I was old enough to vote. However, I didn’t have a particularly strong party identification, in part because of the influence of my granddaddy who was a blue-dog, Eastern North Carolina Democrat with whom I spent much time growing up and who also had a great influence on me. But, I come from fairly conservative stock.

As the 1990 campaign approached, I recall mostly feeling like Senator Helms represented the “rear view mirror” of North Carolina and that it was time for a change. However, I was a person without a strong party identification and still thrashing about for my political identity. I volunteered a bit that year for Mayor Gantt’s campaign and it seemed like he had a reasonable chance of winning, at least until the “hands” ad appeared and Senator Helms was re-elected (I also lived in Chapel Hill then, so I may have been overly optimistic).

That fall, the Republican Party lost me forever, because of that despicable ad. That ad encapsulates what I have mostly HEARD* from most Republican candidates since then: appeals to my fears. And I am a hopeful person.

On election night 2008, even after President Obama was declared the victor, I was desperately nervous to see if he had won the state of North Carolina, which he did by 14,000 votes (out of over 4.3 Million cast). I wept that night when it became clear that he had won North Carolina, because it put the politics that made Senator Helms’ hands ad so potent a bit further in the rear view mirror of my great state.

As a 44 year old man who grew up in the rural South, I am still sometimes struck when I see President Obama and re-remember that we have a black President. However, my children who are 12, 15 and 17 think nothing of it, and for that I am glad. That is what progress looks like, and the election of President Obama greatly advanced our country in this intangible way.

*it may not be what they meant to say, but it is what I have heard.