The Pulse

The House budgeted for Voter ID. The Senate did not.

By: - May 17, 2023 2:15 pm

Photo: Getty Images

In its budget proposal unveiled last month, North Carolina’s House of Representatives budgeted $3.5 million for the State Board of Elections to implement voter ID requirements — before the state Supreme Court even ruled on whether it was constitutional.

The Senate released its budget proposal this week. Unlike their House colleagues, however, it did not appropriate money for the elections board to fulfill its obligations under the voter ID law — despite the fact that the state Supreme Court has since ruled that the law is constitutional.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling final — reversing another ruling from just last year, when the court was controlled by a Democratic majority, that found the voter ID law “was enacted with discriminatory intent to disproportionately disenfranchise and burden African-American voters in North Carolina” — voters will need to show a photo ID in order for their vote to count.

The House budget includes money for voter ID implementation; the Senate budget does not.

In their arguments before the Supreme Court earlier this year, an attorney for Republican legislators said the voter ID law allowed prospective voters to get free forms of identification at early voting locations. The State Board of Election’s website says citizens can also get a free non-driver’s license ID from the DMV.

Enforcing the voter ID law means voters will have a different experience at the polls this year, but unless the State Board of Elections gets funding, educating voters across North Carolina about the new rules could prove challenging — which means people could vote without taking the proper precautions to make sure their votes are counted.

“We do not have funds at this point in time to do any kind of widespread voter outreach,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, recently told NC Newsline’s Rob Schofield in an interview for the podcast/radio program News & Views.

The board had funding for billboards and a media campaign under a previous iteration of the voter ID law leading up to the 2016 elections, Bell said, but they do not have that money now.

“There is no advertising budget for the State Board of Elections, anytime, but there certainly isn’t that designated funding at this point in time for voter ID,” said Bell.

The board has asked the legislature for money to fund a public education and outreach campaign and comply with the administrative requirements outlined in the voter ID law.

The Senate’s budget is not the final word on how the state will spend its money. Members from the House and Senate will negotiate after the Senate passes its budget. Once they reach an agreement they will send the bill to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature.

NC Newsline producer Clayton Henkel contributed to this story.

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Kelan Lyons
Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.