Email from the Council of Churches – HB 589, VIVA/Election Reform Complaints

Isn’t it interesting that the COUNCIL OF CHURCHES are upset about changes in the law which tighten voting laws.




Raleigh Report

Legislative Information from the North Carolina Council of Churches

27 Horne Street ● Raleigh, NC 27607 ● 919-828-6501 ●


August 6, 2013

George Reed, editor 

Raleigh Report Network— 

One of the most insidious and far-reaching actions taking by this year’s General Assembly was the passage, in the last hours of the session, of HB 589, VIVA/Election Reform. HB 589 had been a bill primarily to require photo IDs (with, as you may recall, the delightfully convoluted title of “An act to restore confidence in government by establishing the Voter Information Verification Act to promote the electoral process through education and increased registration of voters and by requiring voters to provide photo identification before voting to protect the right of each registered voter to cast a secure vote with reasonable security measures that confirm voter identity as accurately as possible without restriction”). 


In the session’s last three days, HB 589 became a Christmas tree on which all manner of (mostly) regressive changes to the electoral process were hung, many of them without any discussion in any legislative committee. The detailed summary which follows is from our colleagues at Democracy North Carolina, which has this information available in a one-page handout format. You can download it at You may also want to review Steve Ford’s analysis of HB 589 by clicking here.




PHOTO ID REQUIREMENT – Effective Jan. 2016. Starting in 2014, poll officials will ask voters for a photo ID but no photo ID is required to vote until Jan. 2016. The ID must bear a “reasonable resemblance” to you (poll officials must all agree it’s not you for the ID to fail). It must be one of these:

  • NC drivers license, learner’s permit or provisional license.
  • NC special identification card for non-drivers.
  • US passport.
  • US military ID or Veterans ID card.
  • Enrollment card from a federally or NC recognized tribe.
  • Out-of-state driver’s license but only for 90 days after the voter registers in North Carolina.
  • No student IDs will be accepted.   

The ID must not be expired, except for a voter over age 70 whose ID was current on their 70th birthday. The military and veterans IDs do not need an expiration date, but other IDs do.    


Voters can cast a provisional ballot, but it will only count if they bring an acceptable ID to the county board of elections by noon of the day before the election canvass. Voters are exempt (1) who swear they have a religious objection to being photographed or (2) who use curbside voting because of their age or physical disability. Instead of a photo, these voters may show a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document with name and current address. 


FREE IDs AND DOCUMENTS – Effective Jan. 2014. Voters who swear they don’t have an acceptable ID may apply for a free non-driver’s “special ID card” from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) . They must be registered or register when they apply. To apply, voters must show the DMV a birth certificate (and if their name changed, maybe a marriage license), plus documents showing their residence. A NC county register of deeds must furnish free the birth certificate and marriage license, but that won’t help voters born out of state. 


EARLY VOTING – Effective Jan. 2014. Early voting is just 10 days; the first week is cut. All sites in a county must be open the same times, except for the county elections office or its alternate. The total hours must equal at least the total hours the county provided in the similar election of 2010 or 2012 unless all local and state board members approve fewer hours.  


NO SAME-DAY REGISTRATION – Effective Jan. 2014. Voters must register at least 25 days before the election. Registered voters may still update their name and address on their voter registration at an Early Voting site. 


NO STRAIGHT PARTY VOTING – Effective Jan. 2014. Straight-ticket voting is eliminated. Voters must mark their preferred candidate in each race on the ballot. Candidates will be listed in order of the party of the Governor. 


NO OUT-OF-PRECINCT VOTING – Effective Jan. 2014. Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct on Election Day will not count. Vote in your home precinct on Election Day. 


MAIL-IN ABSENTEE VOTING – Effective Jan. 2014. Absentee ballot requests must be on a form from the county elections board. (Groups can mass mail forms to their favorite voters.) The form asks for your ID number (from a DMV photo ID or last 4 digits on your Social Security card) or you may mail in one of these documents with your name and current address: a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or any government document. The elections office will then send you the ballot. Mail the completed ballot back in the envelope provided. It must have the voter’s signature; the signatures and addresses of two witnesses OR one notary public (who can’t charge a fee), and the name, address and signature of anyone assisting a voter unable to sign.  


NO TEENAGE PRE-REGISTRATION – Effective Sept. 2013. Pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds ends. Also, Citizens Awareness Month and the required annual registration drive in high schools are eliminated (effective Jan. 2014).  


POLL HOURS – Effective Jan. 2014. County elections boards may no longer order polls to stay open an extra hour due to problems. If there is a delay in opening or a problem, only the State Board of Elections may extend the closing time by an equal number of minutes.


REGISTRATION DRIVES – Jan. 2014. People doing voter registration may not be paid based on the number of completed forms they submit, but they may be paid for their time.  


MORE POLL “OBSERVERS” – Effective Jan. 2014. In addition to appointing two “observers” to monitor action inside each voting place, local political parties can appoint 10 more per county and put up to three in any polling place.  


MORE CHALLENGES OF VOTERS – Effective Jan. 2014. Any NC voter can challenge a voter as not being registered or violating another rule. On Election Day, a challenger must be from the voter’s county. The old law said any challenger must be from the voter’s precinct. These changes open the door to mass challenges and vigilantes causing trouble at the polls.  


NO PUBLIC FINANCING OPTIONS – Effective Immediately. Programs that give judicial and some executive branch candidates a chance to qualify for public financing are ended. Left-over funds will finance the judicial guide until exhausted. The tax check-off that helps political parties is also ended. Candidates and parties are forced to rely only on private donors.  


INCREASE CONTRIBUTION LIMITS – Effective Jan. 2014. Contribution limits to a local or state candidate or PAC will go up from $4,000 to $5,000 per election and increase every two years to keep up with inflation. Limits for all judicial candidates jump from $1,000 to $5,000 per election.   


MORE SECRET MONEY IN ELECTIONS – Effective Jan. 2014. Because of changes in disclosure rules, outside groups may spend unlimited amounts on nasty ads against a candidate or on other “electioneering” expenses, using money from virtually any source, from the May primary toSept. 7 of the election year, without revealing the source or amounts to the public or State Board of Elections. Mystery money from corporations or other sources may also be spent on electioneering in odd-number years against candidates. Even for the period when disclosure is required, the public will get less information: The new law ends a requirement that print ads and mailers by outside groups include a list of the top five donors financing the ad.   


CORPORATE MONEY TO PARTIES – Effective Jan. 2014. The law increases the ways corporate money may be received and spent by a political party’s “building fund.” It may be used to pay for up to 3 staff, supplies, travel, and fundraising, not just for upkeep of the party’s building. 


NO MORE “STAND BY YOUR AD” – Effective Jan. 2014. North Carolina’s pioneering Stand By Your Ad law ends. It required the candidate or CEO to appear in TV or radio ads saying, “I am (xxxx) and I approve this message.”  Candidates must include a small photo in TV ads for at least two seconds, but no similar acknowledgement is required in their radio ads or ads by parties or independent groups.  


NO BUNDLING BY LOBBYISTS – Effective Oct. 2013. Registered lobbyists may not collect or pass along any campaign donation to a legislative or executive branch candidate, even a donation from their client’s PAC.  


REGISTRATION ROLLS CLEANED – Effective Oct. 2013. The State Board is authorized to accept notices from more sources to remove deceased voters and also exchange data with states to detect NC voters registered elsewhere.


PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY – Effective Jan. 2016. If South Carolina holds its presidential primary before March 15, then NC will hold its the next Tuesday. (This is aimed at helping NC voters pick the nominees.) The May primary would still be held for other candidates. 


SPECIAL ELECTIONS – Effective Jan. 2014. The new law standardizes the dates for special elections called by local governments and makes various changes in how vacant offices are filled. Certain vacancies on the NC Court of Appeals and Supreme Court will be filled with a plurality election rather than by instant runoff.  


CANDIDATE NAMES ON BALLOT – Effective Jan. 2014. In partisan races, the candidate(s) of the governor’s party appear first, in alpha order, then those of the other major party. The law lowers the number of petition signers a candidate needs to be on the ballot without paying a filing fee. 


TOUCH SCREEN VOTING – Effective Jan. 2018. Touch screen voting machines will be banned unless they produce a paper ballot that is the voter’s official record. 


ELECTION CYCLE & DISCLOSURE – Effective Jan. 2014. The election cycle is changed to sync up with the calendar year, rather than end with the November election. Studies are authorized to exam numerous potential changes in campaign disclosure laws and other regulations. 


REDISTRICTING RECORDS – Effective Jan. 2014. The law codifies a NC Supreme Court ruling that records to and from private attorneys hired by legislators for the re-districting process are not subject to the open records law.


For more details, call Democracy North Carolina at 919-286-6000 or visit



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