Last updated: January 13. 2014 4:34PM - 746 Views
Lauren Williams Staff Writer

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Sampson County residents who wish to participate in upcoming elections but lack the photo identification that will be required by law to vote starting with the 2016 presidential election can now get a free, state-issued photo ID voting card at the local DMV office. Although the need is a couple of years away, a few locals have already taken advantage of the new offer, ensuring that they have what they need when they visit the polls in the future.

The state began issuing the no-fee voter ID cards on Thursday, Jan. 2 through the Division of Motor Vehicles to those who do not have any other form of photo ID — an unexpired driver’s license, United States passport, or United States military ID card, a veterans ID card, or a tribal enrollment card issued by a federal or state-recognized tribe — that is accepted by the Board of Elections.

The issuances come after the N.C. General Assembly decided just last year to make photo identification a requirement when casting votes. The election reform bill, House Bill 589 which was signed into law by the governor back in August, also featured a number of other changes to voting rules including holding fewer early voting days and no longer allowing voters to cast straight party tickets.

When contacted, local DMV employees declined to comment on the new voter ID program, instead referring questions to the state DMV office in Raleigh.

Marge Howell, DMV communications officer, explained that local DMV staff “probably don’t want to comment because it’s such a new program,” noting that “there’s nothing really for them to discuss.”

She added that many also do not want to disrupt their day and take away from the customers they’re trying to serve.

When asked about the new program, Howell shared that 99 no-fee voter ID cards had been issued statewide as of last Thursday night, describing the issuing as “all over” and “spread around.”

“Right now, the Piedmont area seems to be leading the bunch,” she pointed out.

According to information provided by Howell, Clinton’s DMV office has issued two of the no-fee voter ID cards as of Jan. 9, a higher number than offices in Kinston, Laurinburg, Lexington, Garner, Morganton, and Fayetteville South, all who reported issuing only one.

Other DMV locations that also issued two like Clinton included Concord, Durham East, Forrest City, Henderson, High Point, and Raleigh West.

Greensboro West issued the most cards between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, reporting 11.

“One’s being issued here, one’s being issued there. It’s just scattered around. There’s not a great number in one place,” Howell reiterated. “It has started in a slow, steady kind of way.”

According to Howell, interested individuals can go to any DMV office and apply for the free voter ID card; they don’t have to reside in the county.

To apply, persons have to be registered voters. If they’re not, that is also something they can do while at the DMV office, she noted. Persons also have to declare that they do not have any of the other forms of acceptable ID.

According to the state Board of Elections, applicants will also have to prove their age, identity, and state residency.

“That’s what allows for the no-fee card,” said Howell, adding that the card will be sent to approved applicants in the mail just like driver’s licenses do and that people should allow 10 to 15 days to receive their cards.

For more information, please contact the Sampson County DMV office at 910-592-5920 or the state DMV office in Raleigh at 919-715-7000.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.

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