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Democracy NC Responds: New Law Allows for More Student IDs, Flexibility for Early Voting

RALEIGH, N.C. (May 29, 2019) — Lawmakers passed House Bill 646 on Tuesday, extending campus compliance deadlines for student IDs under the new strict photo requirement to November 1, 2019, while also adding back flexibility for county boards of elections to create Early Voting plans in municipal election years.

Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Tomas Lopez said H646 provides “important changes,” but encouraged lawmakers to go further to help counties serve voters.

“Lawmakers’ near-unanimous passage of H646 provides important changes to student ID compliance requirements that could prevent rampant disenfranchisement of young voters under North Carolina’s already-challenging strict photo ID law,” said Lopez. “H646 also restores flexible Early Voting options in odd years only, an important acknowledgement that a 2018 law’s requirement for uniform weekday voting hours was a mistake for under-resourced counties struggling to keep up with current election demands.”

Lopez added, “In order to prevent chaos for counties and ensure options for voters in 2020, lawmakers should now go a step further and extend this lesson to all election cycles by restoring the final Saturday of Early Voting, and giving county Boards of Elections maximum flexibility to determine Early Voting schedules in even years, as well.”

“In order to prevent chaos for counties and ensure options for voters in 2020, lawmakers should now go a step further and extend this lesson to all election cycles...” –Tomas Lopez, Democracy NC

Democracy North Carolina is encouraging voters to contact their lawmakers in support of proposed legislation (H893) that would extend this flexibility to all election years, including restoring the final Saturday of Early Voting, at

Earlier in the month, Democracy North Carolina released a report finding that lawmakers’ 2018 Early Voting changes meant greater costs to counties and fewer options for voters in the 2018 election. The report found that the Early Voting uniform weekday hours requirements under Senate Bill 325 (S325) drained local resources and led many counties to reduce Early Voting sites and weekend voting options in the 2018 midterm election. Read the full report now at

S325 requires counties to keep satellite Early Voting sites (any sites other than the main Board of Elections site) open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, which massively increased staffing costs. In addition to the law’s onerous weekday requirements, it also explicitly eliminated the popular last Saturday of Early Voting for all elections after 2018. Legislation was passed just before the election to add the last Saturday back in 2018 only. Democracy North Carolina’s research found that the removal of this popular weekend option in future elections would disproportionately impact young voters, Black and Latinx voters, and voters in rural counties.

Democracy North Carolina Senior Researcher Sunny Frothingham, who authored the report, said the changes under S325 not only forced counties across North Carolina to reduce popular polling hours and options in 2018, but also, without legislative changes, will set the stage for more limited access to Early Voting in 2020’s high-profile presidential election cycle.

“Over the last decade, North Carolina has become infamous for some of the nation’s most harmful voter suppression tactics — including Senate Bill 325, which forced the majority of counties to reduce the number of weekend hours and almost half to eliminate popular voting sites” said Frothingham.

H646 now heads to the governor for his signature.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jen Jones, 919-260-5906,
DATA QUESTIONS/REQUESTS: Sunny Frothingham, 919-908-7941,

Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and advocacy to increase civic participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and remove systemic barriers to voting and serving in elected office.

“I’m a full-fledged Republican and a Republican supporter, and I’m just disappointed in the General Assembly for not reaching out to election officials in the state and asking, ‘What do you think would work well for this early voting law?'” –Steve Stone, Robeson County Board of Elections Chair