After this election, North Carolina will stop using Social Security numbers to verify the identities of many new voters after questions arose this week about the legality of its registration practices.
On Thursday, The New York Times named North Carolina as one of several states that are checking the Social Security numbers of hundreds of thousands of new voters, despite federal laws requiring that Social Security numbers only be checked as a last resort. The Social Security database is plagued with errors, which could force some qualified voters to provide additional identification – adding an unnecessary barrier for many voters.
The need for more ID could cause confusion on Nov. 4, an election day that is expected to bring unprecedented numbers of voters to the polls. State officials say that, by election day, they expect to have registered more than 800,000 new North Carolina voters this year.
About 218,000 were also taken off the rolls this year – either because they died, moved away or were convicted of felonies – so the net gain will be about 600,000 voters.
It's unclear how many North Carolina voters will be affected.
State Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett said he did not have numbers available Thursday of how many new voters may have been flagged for the November election because their Social Security numbers didn't match federal records. Since last October, 400,000 numbers have been checked, and Bartlett said that more than 40 percent are typically kicked back because they don't match the federal database.
However, it's possible that many of those voters will not have problems on Election Day, because they also provided a valid driver's license number.
Bartlett said Thursday that Social Security number problems are “not going to disenfranchize anyone,” because those whose Social Security numbers were flagged can still vote. They must provide identification, either before the election, at the polls, or within 10 days after the election. He said county boards of election try to notify the affected voters before election day.
Bartlett said the state has been using the registration process since 2006, when a federal law was enacted to centralize and ensure the accuracy of voter rolls. They began asking voters for a driver's license or Social Security number, and verifying all numbers that were provided. If either one is valid, the voter is placed on the rolls.