With early in-person voting starting next month, a requirement to provide identification is a concern for many. But the local election board wants to ensure that everyone in Sampson County is treated fair.
A trial is underway in Winston-Salem with the U.S. Justice Department and the North Carolina NAACP challenging the identification laws. The department and civil rights groups say the law discriminates against minority voters, who are less likely to have photo identification. But attorneys on the other side argue that purpose is to deter voter fraud in the state.
Ashley Pate Tew, director of the Sampson County Board of Elections, said anyone with questions or concerns about the photo identification laws should contact the local office as soon as possible.
“That way we can get the issue resolved and let them know all of the ways in which we can help them and what all of their options are,” Tew said. “We are here to help everyone have a positive experience while casting their vote.”
Tew said she has not received any complaints and have not been addressed personally about any problems regarding IDs.
“The majority of citizens that discuss photo ID in regards to voting with me, all seem to say the same thing, ‘If you show your ID to buy lottery tickets, alcohol, and nicotine, why is there an issue with showing it to vote?’”
As the director of elections, Tew said it’s her job to make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly. She also noted that the local board is required to force the law.
“It doesn’t matter if I think it is right or wrong, fair or unfair, it is the law,” Tew said. “Therefore, it has to be followed. So, whether or not I agree with it, I will show my ID to vote, I will follow the strict guidelines set before me and make sure that the law is followed in Sampson County.”
Tew said voters without a photo identification will not be turned away, but having identification available will make the process better for everyone.
“If you do not have photo ID, and there is a valid reason, there are other ways in which you may cast your vote,” Tew said. “Understand, this law was put into place to help voters, not to attack anyone.”
Tew added that election officials, poll workers, board members and election staff members have been trained and must follow rules and regulations.
“They are all doing as they have been instructed, so please don’t take anything personal,” Tew said. “Everyone must be treated the same. If you do not have a valid photo ID, they will do everything they can to help you vote, but you must be willing to follow the law as well.”
As the elections director, 2016 will be her first time operating a presidential election. So far, the ID law is the only major change coming up.
“I would love for all of our citizens to understand that our number one priority is for all Sampson County residents to have a positive voting experience,” Tew said.
Tew continued and said the board does not want anyone to feel intimidated or attacked, but she stressed that the law must be followed.
“We want everyone to be able to cast their vote on Election Day,” she said. “So if there are any questions or concerns regarding photo ID or any other voting issues, please feel free to call us.”
For more information about eligibility, photo identification status and jurisdictions, Sampson County Board officials may be reached at 910-592-5796. The Sampson County Board of Elections is located at 335 County Complex Road, Clinton.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.