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Republicans fast-track bill to delay voter ID until 2020

March 12, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republicans fast-tracked legislation on Tuesday that would delay requiring photo identification to vote for this year’s elections, the result of yet-finished ID regulations and an unexpected race for a vacant congressional seat.

The state Senate approved a measure that would slow down the required use of voter ID until the 2020 elections. The floor vote followed two Senate committees and preceded a House panel’s debate. The bill could reach the House floor Wednesday and then move to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

A law approved in December directing how voter ID would be implemented — after voters added the identification mandate to the state constitution the month before — had envisioned the requirement beginning with voters in municipal elections later this year.

But new congressional elections starting in late April to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. raised questions whether the mandate could apply to the 3rd Congressional District race, for which absentee mail-in balloting begins Friday. The December law had already exempted from the mandate the upcoming election in the 9th Congressional District, ordered after evidence of illegal collections of absentee ballots.

GOP Sen. Warren Daniel of Burke County, a bill sponsor, said the delay will give time to ensure all of the ID details are worked out by state and local election officials. The December law directed the State Board of Elections to adopt many rules and standards in the weeks and months ahead, including new rules for voters to include identification with mail-in absentee ballot requests.

The bill passed the Senate on a largely party-line vote.

Some Democrats were concerned the bill had failed to push back a Friday deadline on which the state election board would approve ID cards from public and private universities and state and local governments that are determined to meet qualifications set under the ID law. They include requirements that the school confirms a student’s identity by checking their Social Security number, citizenship status and birthdate during enrollment.

More than 30 government or education agencies and private schools had turned in their applications by late Tuesday, according to a list provided by the state board. It didn’t include any University of North Carolina system schools.

Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican, said the plan was to let Friday’s deadline pass and see whether a new application period would be necessary to address remaining concerns of campuses and agencies. Lewis said he remains committed to ensure “everyone has the tools they need to fully exercise their right to vote.”

The legislation advanced while the future of the constitutional amendment mandating photo voter ID is unclear. A trial judge last month voided the amendment, saying it was put on the ballot by a version of the General Assembly that lacked authority to propose alterations because of racial bias in House and Senate districts from which many lawmakers were elected.

An appeals court set aside the judge’s ruling temporarily last week. The December law also is the subject of two pending lawsuits.

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