NORTH CAROLINA – The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is now offering free photo identification cards for voters.

Beginning in 2016, North Carolina voters will be required to show photo IDs at the polls as part of legislation passed in 2013 which significantly reformed elections laws.

Marge Howell, of the DMV Communications Office, says that the free photo ID cards are available for people who have no other valid forms of photo identification.

“We are inviting anyone who needs a voter ID card, which is a photo ID, to come into any driver’s license office and apply for that ID card,” Howell says.

Accepted forms of photo identification will include unexpired NC driver’s license; a military or veterans ID; and an unexpired US passport, among other options.

“There are several forms of IDs that the State Board of Elections does accept, and if anyone has any of these, they would not need to get a Voter ID card from the DMV,” Howell says.

Applications for the free voter ID cards can be made at any North Carolina DMV driver’s license office.

Applicants will need to provide a valid Social Security number and present documents that verify their age and identity.

Howell says that producing the free voter ID cards are not costly for the DMV to produce.

“These are the same kinds of ID cards that are produced on a daily basis by the DMV. We produce driver’s license cards and other ID cards. The [Voter ID] cards are the very same identification cards that we have issued for several years.”

Backers of the Voter ID Law have said it will protect against voter fraud, but opponents say it is discriminates against minority voters.

As part of the sweeping reforms to the state’s election laws, some changes are taking effect this year. Now, the state’s early voting period has been shortened from 17 days to 10 days; same-day registration is no longer available (registration ends 25 days prior to an election); out-of-precinct voting on election day is no longer allowed; the procedure for absentee ballots has changed; and straight-party voting has been eliminated, among other changes.

The State of North Carolina currently faces several state and federal lawsuits questioning the legality of the election law changes. The cases will likely be tied up in court for a lengthy amount of time.

A list of photo IDs that will be acceptable for voting is available on the State Board of Elections’ website.

NC DMV has posted the requirements and documents acceptable for the Voter ID card on its website.