The right to vote, along with full and fair representation, is the most basic of all political rights. AARP North Carolina is against the effort for a state constitutional amendment (HB1092) that would, in practical terms, reduce voter participation by inhibiting basic American voting rights. We urge legislators and voters to oppose any constitutional amendment for new identification requirements.
ng the most active voters
If new requirements for identifying voters at the polls are enacted, they will almost certainly reduce voter turnout among older voters. Older voters have traditionally been the largest and most loyal cohort of voters in elections, especially in midterm years of presidential elections.
Voters ages 50-plus are a sizeable majority of voters every November, yet only 75.2% of 50-plus registered voters (55% of 50+ citizens) turned out in the 2014 mid-terms according to the Census Bureau. In contrast, 90.5% of registered voters aged 50-plus (68.8% of 50+ citizens) participated in the 2016 presidential election. Because of the enormous size of the 50-plus electorate, there are more 50-plus drop-off voters than the total number of 18-34 year old voters.
We fully expect a lower voter turn-out among older adults IF this constitutional amendment that creates new barriers to voting were to pass. Below are AARP’s views on voting issues:
Real Election Flaws
Recent elections have revealed many flaws and practices that make it more difficult for citizens to vote. These include:
- registration impediments. For older voters, registrations that require proof of birth or residency can sometimes be onerous. Birth certificates are particularly difficult or non-existent for many because births often did not occur in medical facilities until facilities were built or staffed. A 1962 Dept of Health, Education Welfare (now HHS) analysis of birth statistics in prior decades revealed that only 56 of 100 births in 1940 occurred in hospitals or other institutions, 88 in 1950, and 97 by 1962. Lay midwives were frequently the only care available in our rural state prior to the 1960s. Even today’s efforts for residents to obtain REAL IDs are also difficult for some. One AARP member in Cary wrote to us this week commenting, “I recently obtained a Real ID from NC and it was a real pain. I could have waited in line for 4+ hrs (no thanks!) and instead booked an appointment. We couldn't get an appointment for two months.” A photo ID requirement could exacerbate existing ID challenges.
- long lines. A 2015 study by the Cal Tech/MIT Voting Technology Project estimates that long lines deterred at least 730,000 Americans from voting in the 2012 elections. A photo ID requirement would likely lead to longer lines, turning off voters with busy lives.
- burdensome and unnecessary voter ID requirements. We estimate that about 1 out of 10 eligible voters would have to travel to a state ID-issuing office to obtain proper photo identification. Many of these offices have limited hours and/or would require lengthy and expensive trips to reach. For example, in Texas, a federal court found that more than 600,000 residents lack the forms of ID necessary to vote and many people would be required to travel up to 250 miles round trip to obtain one, an especially onerous burden for busy people, such as caregivers, and/or those without a car. A photo ID requirement could make it more difficult for older voters to get to the polls.
- lack of mobile polling for voters living in long-term care facilities. The Voting Rights Act, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, and the Americans with Disabilities Act—promote the right to vote. They do so by mandating improved access to registration and polling places and better outreach to older Americans and people with disabilities. A photo ID requirement could undermine NC’s support of these laws.
- inadequate facilities, equipment, and staff at polling places. About 1.4 million people live in nursing facilities and may face challenges in exercising their right to vote. In its 2008 report, the GAO found that 29 out of 92 localities surveyed had designated long-term care facilities as polling places. The American Bar Association urges the establishment of mobile polling stations, which travel to voters in long-term care facilities or other sites, supervised by trained teams of local election officials and others involved in residents’ care. A photo ID requirement could undermine efforts
- errors and lack of transparency in the purging of voter registration lists.
- language barriers.
- problems with the use and counting of provisional ballots, among others.
If the General Assembly were to advance legislation about voting procedures, AARP recommends the following:
- Uniform standards should be established and reinforced with adequate funding in order to safeguard the integrity of the election process and afford all Americans the ability to express their electoral preference. This system of standards should ensure that:
- ballots and voting systems (including those for provisional voting) are designed so voters readily and fully understand them and have full access to them,
- voters are thoroughly informed about the mechanics of voting,
- voting systems minimize human and mechanical error and are subject to effective monitoring (see Chapter 11, Financial Services and Consumer Products—Security of Connected Devices),
- strong criminal sanctions against fraud and civil sanctions against discrimination in the voting system, including registration, are present; and
- the voting process is not burdensome, does not hamper access, and contains eligibility requirements that do not disenfranchise voters.
- State procedures to prevent and detect voter fraud should be fair, nondiscriminatory, and free of partisan bias. Their nature and scope should be proportional to evidence of actual or attempted fraud and not speculation regarding the theoretical possibility of fraud.
- Enforcement of ID requirements and use of provisional ballots should not impede voter registration, turnout, or participation.
- Governments should ensure that no governmental entity excludes any otherwise qualified person from voting on the basis of medical diagnosis, disability status, or type of residence including long-term care facilities.
- The state and local governments should improve the administration of elections to facilitate voting by all individuals with disabilities, including people with cognitive impairments, by:
- requiring the availability of absentee ballots for individuals with disabilities;
- allowing individuals with disabilities to request and receive registration forms and absentee ballots by mail or electronically;
- studying and developing best-practice guidelines for ballot design to maximize access;
- adapting their laws, practices, and technologies to permit and encourage mobile polling and provide adequate funding (see Chapter 11, Financial Services and Consumer Products—Security of Connected Devices);
- ensuring that instructions, signage, and other communications regarding elections are accessible;
- permitting sufficient alternative forms of verifying voter identification to facilitate registering and voting;
- ensuring that polling places are free of physical barriers that inhibit access by older people and people with disabilities; and
- making extra efforts, such as equipping polling places with large-font instructions for the visually impaired and telecommunications devices for the hearing-impaired, as necessary, to assist people with disabilities.
- Polling places should meet accessibility criteria at least as stringent as the FEC’s model criteria.
- The state constitution and statutes that allow people with mental incapacity to be barred from voting, including guardianship and election laws, should explicitly state that the right to vote is retained, except by court order where the following criteria have been met:
- the exclusion is based on a determination by a court of competent jurisdiction;
- the voter has been afforded appropriate due-process protections;
- the court finds that the person cannot communicate, with or without accommodations, a specific desire to participate in the voting process; and
- the findings are established by clear and convincing evidence.