Voting Rights

In August 2013, the N.C. General Assembly passed H.B. 589, the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), which makes several significant changes to North Carolina’s election laws.

Voter ID requirements

Starting in 2016, voters will be required to present one of these government-issued photo IDs when voting:

  • An unexpired North Carolina driver’s license, learner’s permit, or provisional license;
  • An unexpired DMV ID card, also known as a North Carolina nonoperators identification card;
  • An unexpired United States passport;
  • A United States military or veterans identification card (which may be expired);
  • A tribal enrollment card issued by a federally-recognized tribe; or
  • An out-of-state driver’s license or nonoperators license, but only if an individual’s voter registration date in the county is within 90 days of the date of
  • an election.

In 2014, voters will be asked whether they have photo ID when they vote, but all registered voters will be permitted to vote regardless of whether they have valid photo IDs.

Starting in 2016, there will be some limited exceptions to the photo ID requirements that may apply to some. Specifically:

  • Voters over 70 years of age can present an expired ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, as long as it hadn’t expired on the voter’s 70th birthday.
  • Voters who attest to having a sincerely-held religious objection to being photographed can present an alternative form of ID consistent with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Acceptable HAVA IDs include: a current utility bill; a bank statement; a government check; a paycheck; or another government document.
  • Voters who use curbsite voting because they are unable to enter a voting site without physical assistance because of age or physical disability may also vote by showing a HAVA ID.
  • A voter who declares himself or herself the victim of a natural disaster within 60 days of an election and who lives in a county that has officially been declared a natural disaster area doesn’t need to show photo ID when voting.

Starting in 2016, voters who forget to bring their photo IDs with them to vote can file a provisional ballot but must present a valid photo ID to the county board of elections within six days after the election (or within nine days after a presidential election).

For more on voter ID requirements: see the resources page from the N.C. State Board of Elections or the N.C. Center for Voter Education.

Free voter IDs

Beginning in 2014, North Carolinians who don’t have a valid photo ID are eligible for a free ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). To obtain this free ID, voters will need to present DMV with documents to prove identity and residency:

  • Two documents that prove the voter’s age and identity (such as a birth certificate or a transcript);
  • A valid social security number; and
  • A document to prove the voter’s North Carolina residency (such as a housing lease, mortgage statement, utility bill, or a letter from a homeless shelter).
  • Voters can also get free certified copies of their birth certificates or marriage licenses if these are needed to obtain a free ID. For more on free IDs:

DMV typically mails photo IDs within 10 days of receiving applications, so voters will need to plan to apply for free IDs at least 10 days before Election Day.

Specific voting rights for those with a mental illness

The North Carolina Constitution has no restriction on the rights of incompetents, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or otherwise mentally impaired to register and vote.  North Carolina is one of a handful of states that does not constitutionally restrict the incompetent from voting.

GS §163-226.3(4) specifically makes it a felony for persons other than near relative, legal guardian, or a county board multipartisan team to assist a voter in a state or private care facility in voting an absentee ballot.  It does not apply to in-person voting. The statute is set out below:

  • 163‑226.3.  Certain acts declared felonies.

(a)        Any person who shall, in connection with absentee voting in any election held in this State, do any of the acts or things declared in this section to be unlawful, shall be guilty of a Class I felony. It shall be unlawful:

(4)        For any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person, other than the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to make a written request pursuant to G.S. 163‑230.1 or an application on behalf of a registered voter who is a patient in any hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home in this State or for any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person other than the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to mark the voter’s absentee ballot or assist such a voter in marking an absentee ballot. This subdivision does not apply to members, employees, or volunteers of the county board of elections, if those members, employees, or volunteers are working as part of a multipartisan team trained and authorized by the county board of elections to assist voters with absentee ballots. Each county board of elections shall train and authorize such teams, pursuant to procedures which shall be adopted by the State Board of Elections.

GS § 122C-58 allows an order of incompetency to exclude the right of the incompetent in a facility to register and vote. The order does not automatically exclude that right, the exclusion has to be placed in the order. This statute  does not affect people suffering from mental issues ,not in a facility, such as a spouse living at home with dementia.

  • 122C‑58.  Civil rights and civil remedies.

Except as otherwise provided in this Chapter, each adult client of a facility keeps the same right as any other citizen of North Carolina to exercise all civil rights, including the right to dispose of property, execute instruments, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, register and vote, bring civil actions, and marry and get a divorce, unless the exercise of a civil right has been precluded by an unrevoked adjudication of incompetency. This section shall not be construed as validating the act of any client who was in fact incompetent at the time he performed the act.

Regarding the assistance of a voter at a pollsite

G.S. 163-227.2(e): “A voter at a one-stop site shall be entitled to the same assistance as a voter at a voting place on election day under G.S. 163-166.8.”

  • 163-166.8. Assistance to voters.

(a) Any registered voter qualified to vote in the election shall be entitled to assistance with entering and exiting the voting booth and in preparing ballots in accordance with the following rules:

(1) Any voter is entitled to assistance from the voter’s spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild, as chosen by the voter.

(2) A voter in any of the following four categories is entitled to assistance from a person of the voter’s choice, other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer or an officer or agent of the voter’s union:

  1. A voter who, on account of physical disability, is unable to enter the voting booth without assistance.
  2. A voter who, on account of physical disability, is unable to mark a ballot without assistance.
  3. A voter who, on account of illiteracy, is unable to mark a ballot without assistance.
  4. A voter who, on account of blindness, is unable to enter the voting booth or mark a ballot without assistance.

(b) A qualified voter seeking assistance in an election shall, upon arriving at the voting place, request permission from the chief judge to have assistance, stating the reasons. If the chief judge determines that such assistance is appropriate, the chief judge shall ask the voter to point out and identify the person the voter desires to provide such assistance. If the identified person meets the criteria in subsection (a) of this section, the chief judge shall request the person indicated to render the assistance. The chief judge, one of the judges, or one of the assistants may provide aid to the voter if so requested, if the election official is not prohibited by subdivision (a) (2) of this section. Under no circumstances shall any precinct official be assigned to assist a voter qualified for assistance, who was not specified by the voter.

(c) A person rendering assistance to a voter in an election shall be admitted to the voting booth with the voter being assisted. The State Board of Elections shall promulgate rules governing voter assistance, and those rules shall adhere to the following guidelines:

(1) The person rendering assistance shall not in any manner seek to persuade or induce any voter to cast any vote in any particular way.

(2) The person rendering assistance shall not make or keep any memorandum of anything which occurs within the voting booth.

(3) The person rendering assistance shall not, directly or indirectly, reveal to any person how the assisted voter marked ballots, unless the person rendering assistance is called upon to testify in a judicial proceeding for a violation of the election laws. (2001-460, s. 3.)

Additional information

North Carolina Election Law Changes: What nonprofits need to know for nonpartisan voter education from the N.C. Center for Nonprofits

North Carolina State Board of Elections

North Carolina Center for Voter Education