Fact Check: Just How ‘Lenient’ Is NC’s Blocked Voter ID Law?

Feb 26, 2020

You don't need an ID to vote in the North Carolina primaries. That's because a federal court put a state law on hold until a case challenging voter ID can be heard. Last week, a state appeals court blocked it indefinitely. In his response to the federal ruling in December, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore described the law as "one of the nation's most lenient voter ID laws."

WRAL's Paul Specht joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf to assess that claim.

LISA WORF: So, first, how many states have some kind of voter ID law?

PAUL SPECHT: There's about 34 or 35, depending on how you count. There's a few states where their laws are caught up in court, but more than half of America has some some voter ID law.

WORF: And so there are some states that require an ID but not a photo. And then there are states where a photo is required.

SPECHT: That's right. And that's where Speaker Moore got into trouble is lumping North Carolina, which has this photo ID law, which is not in place at this moment with other voter ID laws that don't require a photo.

WORF: So, when you're looking at both types of approaches to this law, how does North Carolina's rate? Is it one of the most lenient voter ID laws in the country?

SPECHT: One of the most lenient voter ID laws? No. One of the most lenient photo ID laws? Yes, you could say that. But that's not what's Speaker Moore said. And here's the difference. Experts say that photo ID laws add an additional burden to the average voter. You have to go out, you have to have your picture taken, whether it's for a driver's license, whether it's for a passport, or something else.

With states that don't require photo IDs, but do require some form of ID, like Ohio, you can just bring like a utility bill to show that, "Hey, I'm, I'm Lisa Worf, and I get billed every month by this utility company, and you can see I live at this address." So, we rated Moore's claim mostly false.

Credit NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

WORF: You're getting this information from the National Conference of State Legislatures, right?

That's right.

WORF: And they do categorize some states that don't require a photo ID but require an ID as strict. So, you said it's more burdensome to have a photo ID, but does that necessarily mean that it's less strict than having a photo ID? In other words is "more burdensome" a better word than "strict?"

SPECHT: Yes, the National Conference of State Legislatures groups states and their laws in two ways. There's photo ID states and voter ID states that don't require pictures. And then there are laws that are considered strict and laws that are considered non strict. Any law that requires a photo or a picture like a driver's license is considered by experts -- not necessarily the conference of legislators -- to be more strict than non-photo-ID states.

However, if you look at North Carolina's photo ID law compared to other photo ID laws, it is lenient because North Carolina would allow you to use multiple forms of identification like a student ID, military ID, veterans ID -- there's even a way to have your ballot cast if you did not bring one of those IDs with you. In that way, North Carolina's photo ID law is very lenient compared to other photo ID laws.

WORF: And Paul did reach out to Speaker Moore's office for this fact check. A spokesperson replied by sending a comparison of North Carolina's law with other states with photo ID. These fact checks are a collaboration between WRAL and PolitiFact, you can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's "Morning Edition."