North Carolina

UNC system students may be able to use their school IDs to vote

Students at UNC system schools who are eligible to vote may have a chance to use their university IDs to cast ballots.

UNC system senior vice president and general counsel Tom Shanahan released a statement Wednesday morning declaring that its 17 schools would likely ask the State Board of Elections to approve their IDs for voting purposes. The deadline for making the requests was March 13. The elections board has until Friday, March 15, to approve requests to have tribal ID cards, UNC, community college and private university student IDs, and employee IDs used for voting.

Voting with student IDs has been a central concern for students and legislators, who worried that UNC schools would not use parts of the new voter ID law that would make college and some work identification cards acceptable at the polls.

Speakers at a State Board of Elections public hearing on temporary rules governing voter ID targeted the requirements colleges must meet in order to have their student IDs approved for use, although the state board does not have the ability to change the law.

ID requirement delayed

Legislators are still tinkering with the new law, though. On Wednesday, the House took a final vote on a bill that sped through the General Assembly this week that delays implementation of voter ID. Voters won’t have to show approved photo IDs for any elections this year under Senate Bill 214, which is now on its way to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature.

Voters passed an amendment in November adding voter ID to the constitution.

Republican leaders decided to put off the requirement after the death of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who represented the 3rd Congressional District, triggered a special election to fill the seat. The law already exempted people voting in another special election this year in the 9th district from having to show ID. SB 214 would also relieve voters in municipal elections from having to show identification this year.

Student IDs were still a worry for speakers at the elections board public hearing. They said universities and community colleges should not have to promise that the photos on the ID cards are taken by the university or contractor, that ID cards have expiration dates, and that students who get the cards have had their Social Security numbers, citizenship status, and birth dates confirmed.

Loren Whitaker, civic engagement coordinator for North Carolina Asian Americans Together, said schools shouldn’t be required to verify citizenship, and the requirements should change so more schools can comply.

Dan DeRosa of Raleigh said that even if UNC students are able to vote using school IDs, most community colleges and private colleges will be left out.

“It’s unlikely that even a majority of IDs of community colleges, colleges and universities will work for 2020,” he said.

UNC, NC State, NCCU apply

Employers and university administrators shouldn’t be so worried about the rules that they decide not to ask for their IDs to be approved, said Marian Lewin, president of the League of Women Voters in Wake County.

“The rules should not impose requirements on the issuers of the photo ID cards to establish voter eligibility, as that responsibility must remain only with the county Boards of Election to enable students and employees to vote,” she said.

Until late Wednesday morning, it was unclear whether UNC campuses were going to ask the elections board to allow their students to use their college IDs. By 5:20 p.m., nearly all the UNC institutions had applied, including UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State University, and NC Central University, along with some community colleges, according to an elections board list.

The hearing was on temporary proposed rules that would govern how requests for student ID and employee ID approvals should be sent to the elections board, and how the counties should create voter ID cards.

Lynn Bonner has worked at The News & Observer since 1994, and has written about the state legislature and politics since 1999. Contact her at or (919) 829-4821.