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Learn everything you need to know about voting in the upcoming election, including local candidates' positions on various issues and why they think you should vote for them.

Photo ID is now required (but you can still vote without it) as early voting starts in Charlotte primaries

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Charlotte voters are the first in the state required to show a photo ID with early voting starting today for the Sept. 12 mayoral and City Council primary election.

North Carolina voters in 2018 approved an amendment to the state constitution that requires a photo ID to vote. Advocacy groups sued over the implementing law, but the state Supreme Court earlier this year said photo ID is constitutional.

The first elections requiring photo ID are Charlotte's and Sanford’s municipal primaries.

The North Carolina Board of Elections has a list of state-approved photo IDs on its website.

Approved IDs include a North Carolina driver's license, a state ID from the DMV, a U.S. Passport; a North Carolina voter photo ID issued by a county board of elections, a college or university ID that’s been approved by the state elections board, a state or local government ID, or a charter school employee ID.

Military or veterans ID cards issued by the U.S. government are also allowed, as are tribal enrollment cards that are recognized by the state or federal government and an ID card issued by the federal or state government for a public assistance program.

Mecklenburg Elections Director Michael Dickerson said he expects some confusion.

“I’m sure we are going to have someone come and vote who works at Belk and show us their Belk ID,” Dickerson said. “But that’s not an approved ID.”

Dickerson said that doesn’t mean people won’t be allowed to vote.

They can still fill out a “Photo ID Exception Form.”

The form requires voters to confirm they “suffer from a reasonable impediment that prevents me from presenting photo ID.”

They must check one or more reasons for that impediment before being allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

The reasons include: a lack of transportation; disability or illness; lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to get photo ID; work, school or family responsibilities; their photo ID is lost, stolen, or misplaced; and that they have applied for photo ID but have not received it.

An earlier version of the form allowed voters to say they were not aware of the photo ID requirement. The North Carolina Board of Elections this summer removed that option.

The form also allows for an open-ended question in which voters can say why they don’t have an ID.

Dickerson said he expects people to come to vote having forgotten their ID or not realizing that it’s required.

He said a voter could say their ID is misplaced.

“If I don’t have it with me, if I don’t have it in my wallet, then it’s misplaced in my book because my ID always stays in my wallet,” he said.

Although there is no longer a box for “did not know photo ID was required for voting,” Dickerson said he believes that would be an acceptable reason if a voter wrote that as an “other reasonable impediment” for not having a photo ID.

People who vote without a photo ID will cast provisional ballots. The county elections board will review those ballots after the election. Unless there is a unanimous vote of the five-member board to reject the ballot, it will count.

The legislature is also considering making other changes to how North Carolina elections are conducted. They include requiring that all mail ballots be received by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day and making it more difficult to register and vote on the same day during the in-person early voting period.

But those changes won’t be in effect for the Sept. 12 primary.

The existing rules for same-day registration are still in place.

As of now, voters have a three-day grace period for their mail ballot to arrive at the county elections office after Election Day, so long as it has a postmark on Election Day or before.

Voters who vote by mail must include a photocopy of an acceptable ID inside the “photo ID envelope” that comes with their ballot. Or they may complete an ID Exception Form with the absentee ballot return envelope.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.