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Photo ID Implementation Concerns Raised in 2023 Municipal CBOE Monitoring Report


RALEIGH, N.C. (02.05.24) — In 2023, the reversal of Holmes v. Moore raised alarms across voting rights organizations concerned with county boards of elections and the State Board of Elections implementing the voter photo ID law in less than four months. In response, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Common Cause North Carolina, League of Women Voters of NC, and other Election Protection partners deployed numerous election advocates across 35 counties for the 2023 November municipal election to observe the pre-canvass and canvass monitoring process.

As a result, the new, comprehensive 2023 County Boards of Elections (CBOE) Monitoring Report underscores how confusion and misinterpretation of the law disproportionately impacted voters, leading to disenfranchisement during the municipal elections. Municipal elections often see lower voter turnout, as well as a lower number of eligible voters who live within the designated precinct boundaries where elections are being held. With a total of 613,834 ballots cast across all municipal elections, this resulted in a 13.8% turnout of eligible voters.

Noteworthy observations gathered through canvass reports, the non-partisan voter hotline (888-OUR-VOTE), and provisional voter phone banking outreach include:

Voter Photo ID Implementation 

  • Voters without an acceptable photo ID were treated differently in different counties. Most poll workers instructed voters with an ID at home to complete a provisional ballot and return to the county board of elections with the ID before the day of canvass. But voters who left their ID at home were occasionally offered a Reasonable Impediment Exception form, which saved them from making an extra trip. Voters who did not possess an acceptable photo ID were supposed to receive an exception form, but in some cases that didn’t happen.
  • The majority of voters who did not present a photo ID at the polling place, and who did not complete an exception form, did not return to the county board office – and their ballot was denied.
  • Conflicting interpretations of how to process ID exception forms led some counties to incorrectly reject ballots based on the personal opinions of county board members about the reasonableness of the voter’s statement rather than whether or not the board had factual grounds to believe the statement was false, as the law requires.

Voting By Mail

  • Ongoing mail delays resulted in discounted ballots, even with ample delivery time. In some cases, ineligible postmarks or the lack of them resulted in the rejection of ballots.
  • Missing or incomplete signatures also resulted in the denial of ballots. In one case, a voter with a significant disability failed to sign their form, causing their ballot to be rejected.

Election Funding 

  • Adequate funding for election administration at the county continues to be a significant barrier to the adoption and expansion of early voting plans. Many counties expressed the need to expand the number of sites or hours to account for growing populations but cited cost as a barrier.

Municipal Election Voter Education

  • Many voters expressed frustration or lack of knowledge surrounding whether they had an election and if they qualified to vote due to municipal boundary restrictions. In some cases, voters described feeling disenfranchised when they learned they lived in an unincorporated area.
  • Methods of voter notification related to ballot issues varied across counties. Many voters with ID problems expressed a lack of understanding of why they were instructed to cast a provisional ballot or needed to return with their ID to the county board of elections to have their vote counted.

Cheryl Carter, Co-Executive Director for Democracy North Carolina, hopes the State Board of Elections utilizes the report findings to provide appropriate guidance for county boards to fairly and equitably implement the Voter ID law in 2024, stating, “Lessons learned in the 2023 municipal canvass can provide a pathway for state election officials to act swiftly and effectively ensuring no voter is discriminated against when using a photo ID exemption form. The law is not to be interpreted as a personal benefactor or detriment by individuals on county boards, rather, it is to maintain a consistent pedigree of election administration across the state, ensuring every valid vote is counted.”

“Local elections matter for creating change and influence in our daily life, and this report demonstrates that North Carolinians faced unnecessary barriers when making their voice heard in their communities,” said Katelin Kaiser, Counsel for Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Voter photo ID must not be used as a discriminatory tool to second guess the reasonableness of a voter’s personal situation. We call on election officials to do better by voters and prioritize robust training ahead of the 2024 Primary Election.”

“Voting is our fundamental freedom as Americans. If North Carolina is to have a voter ID requirement, then it must be applied fairly and not be a discriminatory barrier to the ballot box,” said Tyler Daye, Policy and Civic Engagement Manager with Common Cause North Carolina. “The state legislature and county governments should ensure election officials have the resources needed to effectively educate the public and to fully train poll workers on proper implementation of the ID requirement. Every voter’s rights must be respected and protected.”

“Through our vote, elections make our voices heard. Changes in the requirements to vote can discourage people from casting their ballot, or at worse, have their ballot not counted,” said Marian Lewin, Vice President of the League of Women Voters NC. “Recent implementation of photo ID requirements has raised serious concerns. North Carolina voters deserve more from their elected officials. They deserve to be confident that their vote will be counted no matter how or where they cast their ballot.”

Read the full CBOE monitoring report at To learn more about Democracy NC’s elections advocacy program, visit


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.