You need a photo ID to vote in NC. What happens if you don’t have one?

A voter registration drive in August in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

By Michael McElroy

November 6, 2023

This year’s local elections will affect property tax rates, spending, rules for law enforcement and lots more. And like all elections, local elections are often decided by narrow margins. So every valid vote counts.

Tuesday is Election Day for more than 460 North Carolina cities, counties and towns, and this year voters will need to show an accepted photo ID at their polling place in order to have their ballot counted.

But what about registered voters who don’t have an ID?

Elections officials have a plan for that.

“All voters will be allowed to vote with or without a photo ID,” the state board of election says.

You’ll have to do a couple of things to have your ballot counted, but the most important thing, election officials say, is to not let the voter ID requirement scare you away from the voting process.

[There are several approved IDs, though most voters will simply show their driver’s license. Many state and college IDs are also accepted. You can find the full list of accepted IDs on the BOE website or through our guide here.]

This year’s elections are of the local variety. They may not spark the same media frenzy as presidential elections, but they are still huge deals. Local elections affect property tax rates, local spending, rules for law enforcement, sanitation services, and lots more.

RELATED: 10 things to know ahead of Election Day in North Carolina

And like all elections, municipal elections are often decided by narrow margins.

So every valid vote counts.

Registered voters who lack an acceptable ID have two options to cast their ballots. Here’s a look at them:

Fill out an ID Exception Form

If you lost your ID or a lack of reliable transportation prevented you from obtaining one, or you have a prolonged sickness – you can still vote through a provisional ballot. And it will eventually be counted once elections officials verify your identity another way.

Just fill out an ID exception form.

There are several acceptable exceptions a voter can cite.

  1. A “reasonable impediment” to showing a photo ID. To qualify, you have to pick at least one of the following reasons:
  • Lack of transportation
  • Disability or illness
  • Lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to obtain ID
  • Work or school schedule
  • Family responsibilities
  • A lost, stolen, or misplaced Photo ID
  • Applied for photo ID but have not received it
  1. Religious objections to being photographed.
  2. Victim of a natural disaster that merited an official disaster declaration from the President Joe Biden or Gov. Roy Cooper.

You can check the status of your provisional ballot by clicking here or by calling (919) 814-0700 or (866) 522-4723 (toll-free).

Take your documents to the board of elections.

Let’s say you have an ID, but you forgot it in your other pants.

You can still vote.

If you are unable to run home, get it, and go back to the polling site, you too can cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted as long as you bring your accepted voter ID to your county board of elections office before the final vote counting period ends 10 days after Election Day.

You can find your county board of election here.

If you have questions about the ID once you’re at your polling site, or about any other election issue, ask an elections worker.

There are options.

But no matter what, vote.

“Voters who do not have an ID when it comes time to vote should not let this deter them,” Karen Brinson Bell, the executive director of the NCBOE, said in a press conference on the first day of the early voting period last month.


  • 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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