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Voter ID Amendment Doesn't Apply To Absentee Mail-In Ballots


An amendment to North Carolina’s State Constitution was passed to require photo identification to vote in person. The amendment doesn’t apply to absentee mail-in voting, but with an ongoing investigation into election fraud in the Ninth Congressional District, mail-in ballots appear to be a significant issue.

Some say they’ve been an issue all along.

As a former special counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly, Gerry Cohen has been following state elections for almost 50 years. He said one thing that has been an issue for just as long is absentee ballot security.

“I dug out from my file a Charlotte Observer Editorial from May of 1971 about voter fraud and absentee ballots that I was quoted in,” Cohen said. “That editorial ran before I was old enough to vote and I have been retired for three years.”

Cohen said the voter ID bill addresses a type of fraud that isn’t widespread.

“All the evidence nationally and in North Carolina is voter fraud goes on with absentee ballots, not with anything at the polling place,” Cohen said. “So we’re erecting a giant structure to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and ignoring a problem that does exist.”

When the State Board of Elections looked into voter fraud in 2016, it found only two cases of voter impersonation — one by mail and one in person. There were also indictments of 19 people living in the country illegally who voted. That audit conducted in 2017 also found irregularities affecting absentee by mail voting in Bladen County.

State Senator Joyce Kraweic of Forsyth County said the idea for the amendment was the result of constituent input.

“I’ve worked the polls myself for many many years. They show up and they will insist on your looking at their driver’s license or their ID,” Kraweic said. “They can’t believe that they don’t have to show it.”

There were safety measures in the past. It used to be that North Carolina voters had to mail in a letter to request an absentee ballot application. The state would then send back a confirmation of their application.

When they voted, they sent two envelopes together. The ballot went in an outer envelope and their application affidavit in the inner envelope.

But Cohen said that requirement was dropped in the late 70s because it was hard for voters to navigate the system. 

Cole del Charco is a journalist, writer and radio producer from Hickory, North Carolina.