Got ID, NC?

What you need to know about NC’s New Voter ID Law:

In November 2018, 55% of North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution requiring photo ID to vote, with some exceptions. Just one month later, the lame-duck General Assembly hastily passed a law (S824) implementing the new constitutional amendment.

Now what? Here’s what you need to know about the latest photo ID law.


Beginning in 2020, North Carolina voters will be required to provide photo identification when voting in-person or absentee-by-mail, with some exceptions. This requirement is not in place for any election in 2019. (Session Law 2019-4, signed by governor on March 14, 2019.)

In the 2018 general election, 55 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to vote in North Carolina. Subsequently, the N.C. General Assembly approved Session Law 2018-144, which implements the constitutional requirement for voter photo ID.

The new ID law for 2020 would “require” voters to show an acceptable photo ID – but also has exceptions so people can vote in person without one.

IDs that will definitely work for voting in 2020, as long as they are current or have been expired for less than 1 year:

  • NC DMV Driver’s License or ID (Note: Free IDs for voting are still available from DMV.)
  • US Passport
  • US Military or Veterans’ ID
  • Free ID available from the county Boards of Elections starting May 1st (Note: Details are still pending on what documentation a voter will be required to provide to get the free ID.)

IDs that might work for voting in 2020, depending on when you registered or whether they meet certain strict standards outlined in the law and approval by the State Board of Elections (SBOE):

  • Out-of-state driver’s license (only if you registered less than 90 days before voting for the first time in NC)
  • Student IDs from college, university, or community college (both public and private)
  • Employee IDs from local government agencies
  • Tribal IDs from federally or state-recognized Native American tribes

Important: Not all student, employee, or tribal IDs will work for voting.

As of now, the North Carolina State Board of Elections will produce its initial list of which student, employee, and tribal IDs will be accepted for voting by April 1, 2019. Contact to get more details on how to get your institution’s ID approved for voting.

List of Approved Employee, Student & Tribal IDs

Correspondence re: Approval of Student and Employee Identification Cards Under Session Law 2018-144


While all photo ID laws impose unnecessary barriers to voting, there are 3 exceptions in the law for people who don’t have photo IDs:

  • Natural disaster exception: Victims of natural disasters who lost their ID can fill out an affidavit at an Election Day precinct or Early Voting site affirming their identity. The disaster must have occurred within 100 days of the election and resulted in a disaster declaration by the Governor or President. These voters will be given a provisional ballot.
  • Religious objection: People who have a religious objection to being photographed may complete an affidavit at an Election Day precinct or Early Voting site affirming their identity. These voters will be given a provisional ballot.
  • “Reasonable impediment” exception: Voters who do not have one of the acceptable forms of photo ID may complete an affidavit affirming their identity and attesting that they have a “reasonable impediment” to getting one of the acceptable photo IDs. The affidavit will offer voters eight types of “reasonable impediments” to choose from – lack of transportation, disability or illness, lack of birth certificate or other underlying documents required, work schedule, family responsibilities, lost or stolen ID, photo ID applied for but not yet received, or “other.” In 2019 only, voters will also be able to choose “did not know about ID law” as a reason for needing a reasonable impediment ballot. These voters will be given a provisional ballot.


  • Absentee ballot security: Following allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the Congressional District 9 election, particularly in Bladen and Robeson counties, S824 directs the SBOE to make recommendations on how best to improve the security of mail-in absentee voting. The SBOE must report its recommendations to the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee by March 1, 2019.
  • Public education on ID: With only five months before the first election where NC voters will have to show photo ID, S824 requires the State Board of Elections to engage in an “aggressive voter education program.” Information about the new law will be handed by poll workers starting in the 2019 municipal elections and mailed to all voters. At least two educational events must be held in each county before Sept. 1, 2019. Finally, a special mailing will be sent to registered voters without a DMV-issued ID.
  • More partisan poll observers: Prior to S824, county political party chairs were able to appoint observers to be inside of polling places monitoring the voting on behalf of their party. S824 expands that to also allow state political parties to appoint as many as 100 additional poll observers who can be deployed statewide. With five political parties in NC, that could mean as many as 500 additional partisans with the authority to be inside polling places.
  • New penalty for making fake IDs: S824 also creates a new crime – making fake photo IDs for the purposes of voting is a Class I felony.


On February 22, 2019, a state court judge threw out two amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that voters approved in November, including the strict photo ID requirement to vote.

In the 13-page opinion, Superior Ct Judge G. Bryan Collins, Jr. wrote, “An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.” The original lawsuit, filed in August 2018 by Forward Justice for plaintiffs the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and Clean Air NC, asserted that the legislature was “unconstitutionally constituted” due to gerrymanders and therefore the two amendments were “void.” Two other amendments approved in November 2018 were not part of the lawsuit, so were not affected by the ruling. The ruling has been put on hold pending an appeal.

Other lawsuits are also challenging the Voter ID law that provided the enabling language for that amendment. One lawsuit, filed by Southern Coalition for Social Justice, is in Wake County Superior Court, which decided on March 12 to hand the case over to a three-judge panel for consideration. Another lawsuit over the voter ID law was filed by the NC NAACP and is pending in federal court.

Last updated March 19, 2019. Please visit for the latest information.

Go Vote!

There are three ways to vote: (1) with a mail-in absentee ballot, (2) in person at your precinct poll on Election Day, or (3) in person at an Early Voting location in your county during the Early Voting period (from the 12th to 3rd day before Election Day). For valuable tips about voting, see

By voting early, you can avoid possible bad weather and long lines on Election Day. Using Early Voting is also the best way to update your registration or solve any problems because you moved within the county. If you move to a new county, be sure to register to vote in that county at least 25 days before Election Day. See for other rules.

Questions about voting? Call 1-888-OUR-VOTE

For more information, visit

Got ID NC is a project of Democracy North Carolina.