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Out of 1.8M ballots cast in NC primary, 473 didn't count because voters didn't have photo ID

The March 5 primary was the first statewide election in North Carolina where voters had to show photo ID after the passage of a constitutional amendment in 2018.
Steve Harrison
The March 5 primary was the first statewide election in North Carolina where voters had to show photo ID after the passage of a constitutional amendment in 2018.

The North Carolina Board of Elections said 473 ballots in the March 5 primary were not counted because the voter didn’t have a photo ID.

Of the 1.8 million people who cast ballots in the primary, 1,185 came to the polls and cast a provisional ballot without a photo ID. March 5 was the first statewide election under the new requirement.

Most of those voters filled out a photo ID exception form, which allows the voter to list a reason they don’t have one. The reasons include having a disability, not having transportation, and not having the documents needed to get an ID. The voter could also say they lost their ID.

After filling out the form, a majority of those people’s ballots were counted by county elections boards.

However, 473 ballots were ultimately rejected.

Of those voters, 60 did fill out ID exception forms, but their county board of elections still rejected their ballot. It’s unclear why.

The remaining 413 voters did not fill out an exception form and did not return to the elections board to show an ID before canvass, which is when the vote is officially counted.

The number of ballots not counted because of photo ID works out to one ballot rejected for every 3,806 cast.

North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2018 requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot. The implementing law has been challenged in court by voting rights groups, who have said it discriminates against minority voters.

The North Carolina Supreme Court last year ruled that the photo ID law was constitutional. But there is still a federal lawsuit brought by the NAACP challenging the law that could go to trial in May.

Critics have also said photo ID is unnecessary since cases of in-person voter fraud are extremely rare. Anaudit for the state elections board found there was one case of in-person voter fraud in the 2016 election.

Here is the racial and ethnic breakdown of the 473 people whose provisional ballots did not count:

  • 265 white
  • 61 Black
  • 47 other/undesignated
  • 10 Hispanic
  • 7 Asian

And here is the political party breakdown of voters whose provisional ballots did not count:

  • 174 Republican
  • 171 Democratic
  • 127 Unaffiliated
  •  1 Libertarian

The March 5 primary was also the first statewide election under a new law that requires mail ballots to be received by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. The previous law allowed for mail ballots to be counted if they arrived three days later, so long as they were postmarked on Election Day.
The state elections board said 1,128 ballots were marked as “Returned After Deadline” — and thus didn’t count — in this year’s election. That compares with 800 ballots marked as “Returned After Deadline” in the 2020 election.

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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.