The constitutional amendment says only that a photo ID is required when someone votes in person, but now the state legislature, where Republicans have a supermajority, will get to decide what kinds of ID are allowed and what exceptions to make for people who don’t have acceptable ID. Those details are crucial and could make it more difficult for minority groups, the poor and young people ― who are more likely to lack government ID ― to vote in the state.
North Carolina tried to enact a voter ID requirement in 2016, but a federal appeals court struck down the law it was a part of. The court noted the types of identification North Carolina Republicans included in the law were the ones they knew white people in the state were more likely to possess. The overall law, the court found, targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Enshrining a photo ID requirement in the state constitution makes it more difficult to challenge the requirement in state court. Allison Riggs, a civil rights lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told HuffPost earlier this year that putting a voter ID requirement in the state constitution ensured no future legislature where Republicans didn’t have a majority would be able to just repeal it.
Supporters say voter ID is necessary to combat voter fraud, and North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) said in June it was needed to “secure the integrity of our elections system.” But a state audit of the 2016 election found just two cases of voter impersonation that were referred to prosecutors. About 4.8 million people voted in the 2016 election in the state. Nationally, several studies and investigations have shown that voter fraud is not a widespread problem.
Nationally, 34 states have some form of voter ID requirement, but the details vary from state to state.