Article VI, Section 1 of the North Carolina Constitution: "Every person born in the United States and every person who has been naturalized, 18 years of age, and possessing the qualifications set out in this Article, SHALL BE ENTITLED TO VOTE at any election by the people of the State, except as herein otherwise provided.”
Article VI goes on to establish the "herein otherwise provided," outlining that those who are citizens, those who’ve lived in their precinct for at least 30 days, and those who are not felons may register to vote and are eligible to vote. There is no word there about having to show an i.d. and, in fact, there is instead an explicit declaration that registered voters “SHALL BE ENTITLED TO VOTE EXCEPT AS HEREIN OTHERWISE PROVIDED.”
Article VI, Section 3 says, “Every person offering to vote shall be at the time legally registered as a voter as herein prescribed and in the manner provided by law. The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing the registration of voters.”
In other words, the state’s Constitution allows legislative laws to govern voter registration, but it does not grant the authority to legislate for additional requirements for casting a vote by a legally registered voter, like state-issued photo i.d.s.
When a photo i.d. law was passed in Indiana, those opposing the law challenged it in federal court. They lost in the United States Supreme Court (Crawford et al. v. Marion County Election Board). The U.S. Constitution contains no language like that in the NC Constitution, and apparently such language does not exist in the Indiana state Constitution.
The Missouri Precedent
However, there’s precedent in Missouri for challenging voter photo i.d. law in state (rather than federal) courts, because the Missouri state Constitution contains language very similar to our Article VI, by which the Missouri Supreme Court found that Missouri’s photo i.d. law violated the state’s constitution for mandating “an impermissible additional qualification to vote.” (A discussion of the Missouri case can be found in Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly.)
Article VIII, Section 2 of the Missouri state Constitution: “All citizens of the United States, including occupants of soldiers’ and sailors’ homes, over the age of eighteen who are residents of this state and of the political subdivision in which they offer to vote are ENTITLED TO VOTE at all elections by the people, if the election is one for which registration is required if they are registered within the time prescribed by law, or if the election is one for which registration is not required, if they have been residents of the political subdivision in which they offer to vote for thirty days next preceding the election for which they offer to vote....”
The Missouri Supreme Court also found that the voter photo i.d. law violated “the prohibition on interference with the free exercise of the right and the requirement that all elections be free and open,” citing Article 1, Section 25 of the state Constitution: “That all elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”
There’s language corresponding to that provision in Article I, Sec. 10 of the NC Constitution: “All elections shall be free.” And in Article VI, Section 2: “Any person who has resided in the State of North Carolina for one year and in the precinct, ward, or other election district for 30 days next preceding an election, and possesses the other qualifications set out in this Article, SHALL BE ENTITLED TO VOTE at any election held in this State ...”
The Missouri Republican Party’s remedy for the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling is to amend the state Constitution, and that is exactly what they are now attempting. The measure has passed the Missouri Senate, must also pass the Missouri House and then be approved by the voters of the state.
The Missouri law was also ruled unconstitutional for “requiring the payment of money to vote, in violation of due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.”
Article V, Section 1 of the NC Constitution: “No poll or capitation tax shall be levied by the General Assembly or by any county, city or town, or other taxing unit.”
Please note this: Although the Republican legislature in Missouri offered free i.d. cards to anyone not already possessing a driver’s license or other valid i.d., the underlying documents to receive those i.d.s, such as certified birth certificates or social security cards, cost $15 or more. For women who must document one or more name changes, or for people born outside of Missouri, the barriers were even higher and more costly.
Based on those facts, the Missouri Supreme Court said, “The fact that the state does not charge for the nondriver license itself does not void the constitutional issue or economic reality that voters will have to ‘buy’ numerous government documents to get the ‘free’ photo ID to qualify for the privilege of voting. While a license to drive may be just that: license and not a right. The right to vote is also just that: a right and not a license.”
Some Republicans in the NC General Assembly (Jonathan Jordan, for example) are already excusing the cost to state government as "minimal" while also acknowledging that there will be cost. To impose even minimal ($10, say) cost on a registered voter to obtain the correct photo i.d. would amount to a poll tax, which is explicitly illegal under our Constitution. The NC state Board of Elections has already determined that at least 1,000,000 NC voters currently do not have a state driver’s license, and supplying these people with photo i.d.s would cost the state government (us taxpayers!) around $20,000,000.
Republicans have made noise that they intend for the state to pay for the i.d.s for those who cannot afford them, but that’s simply not good enough. Because the NC Constitution says “All elections shall be free,” the state should logically have to pay for those who can afford the i.d.s as well (though we still believe that i.d.s would be an illegal requirement under the state’s Constitution). The words “fee” and “paid for” get tricky since the Missouri Supreme Court said that even free photo i.d.s imposed an undue burden. The documentation required (birth certificates, etc.) are not usually free.
NC Republicans Will Have to Amend the State Constitution
It’s gonna take some work, and maybe they’d like to get started on that before they start ramming photo i.d.s down our throats.
Article XIII, Sec. 4 of the NC Constitution: “A proposal of a new or revised Constitution or an amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be initiated by the General Assembly, but only if three-fifths of all the members of each house shall adopt an act submitting the proposal to the qualified voters of the State for their ratification or rejection.”