How to Get a Free Voter ID in North Carolina

The 2016 primaries at the Pullen Community Center in Raleigh, North Carolina., the last time voter IDs were required. A couple of conflicting North Carolina Supreme Court rulings later, and the IDs are back. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

By Michael McElroy

August 3, 2023

North Carolinians need an approved voter ID to vote, but registered voters can now get one for free at their county board of elections. 

Don’t have an approved Voter ID for upcoming elections? No problem. You can now get one for free at your county board of elections.

The state’s new Voter ID law goes into effect this year, and while most voters will be able to use a valid driver’s license, not everyone has one. So state officials are required to provide a free, acceptable ID card to anyone who needs it.

While the boards of election were always going to be a big source of these new IDs, it has taken time to get the system running across the state’s 100 counties. 

The wait is over, state elections officials announced on Wednesday.

“State Board staff has worked diligently with the county boards of elections over the past couple of months to get the necessary software and hardware in place,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections (NCBOE), said in a news release.

The Steps

The process to get your county-issued ID card is pretty straightforward.

  1. Go to your county board of elections. 
  2. Give them your name and the last four digits of your social security number. 
  3. Smile for the camera.

You don’t need to bring any documents with you.

Most voters will be able to get their cards right away, the NCBOE said, but some counties may need extra time. In these counties, voters can choose to have their IDs mailed to them or to be alerted when the cards are ready for pick up. 

Voter ID requirements add extra steps to a fundamental right, and for some voters could require multiple trips. But don’t let the new requirements stop you from voting, elections officials said.

“This new process should not discourage or prevent any eligible individual from voting and having their ballot counted,” Brinson Bell said last month.

“The State Board and county boards of elections are here to assist any voter who needs an ID or has questions about this law.” 

The Other IDs You Can Use

The BOE has also approved 99 student and employee photo IDs voters can use to vote. 

The approved student IDs include those from all UNC System schools, North Carolina State, Duke, Elon, several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and lots of community colleges.

So to recap, here’s where NC stands for acceptable forms of ID:

  1. Up-to-date North Carolina driver’s license
  2. Valid US Passport or passport card.
  3. State ID issued by the NC DMV
  4. Approved college and state/government IDs
  5. Military or US issued veteran ID
  6. And now the voter ID card from the county BOE.

[For a list of all the acceptable forms of voter IDs as well as the Board’s FAQ page, click here.]

Voters who do not yet have an acceptable form of voter ID have other options, elections officials said.

Registered voters can also get a “No-Fee ID Card” from the state Department of Motor Vehicles

And if you don’t have your ID with you on Election Day, you can fill out a Photo ID Exception Form and cast a provisional ballot. Then, to have your vote counted, you’d need to bring your acceptable ID to your county board of elections by the day before the votes are finalized.

Those voting by mail must include a photocopy of their ID with their ballot, or they can fill out a Photo ID Exception Form for Absentee Voting.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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