The finely tuned machine that is the Guilford County Board of Elections Office got a big wrench tossed into its gears by a federal district court judge – and now the voter ID requirement for the coming election is up in the air and local election officials across the state are scrambling to adjust to a highly uncertain situation.
On Thursday evening, Dec. 26, Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt got a stunning email from the NC Board of Elections that was anything but a Christmas present.
It read: “The federal district court has issued a notice that next week it will be entering a preliminary injunction of the photo ID law. This means that photo ID will not be in effect for the primary, absent a successful appeal.”
The expectation is that this week US District Court Judge Loretta Biggs will block – or perhaps alter – the photo ID requirement that the Guilford County elections office has been planning for. Collicutt said he’s still waiting to hear the final decision from the court – something he said he expects this week – but he added that this is the “11th hour” for major changes in an election.
“The big thing is that we are supposed to start sending out absentee ballots on January 13,” Collicutt said.
The state’s new voter ID law requires absentee voters to send in a copy of a valid photo ID. But now, maybe they won’t have to – it’s yet to be seen.
When those ballots are sent out, the election officials have to include a proper set of instructions for those voters, and right now no one knows what those instructions should say.
Collicutt also said the change affects how election workers are trained and that’s a process his office has already begun.
“There’s also notice to voters,” he added, listing another concern.
North Carolina voters have already been instructed for months and months to start preparing to show an ID to vote in 2020.
Collicutt said that, on Monday, Dec. 31, the state elections office was ready to send out a mass mailing meant to help educate the voters on the photo ID provisions and the timing of the judge’s announcement of an impending decision was meant to stop that mailing.