Gov. Beverly Perdue signed into law a measure requiring firms with 25 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure that applicants are eligible to work in the United States.

Perdue, a Democrat, signed HB 36 despite the pressure brought to bear by community organizations and religious groups calling for her to veto it because they consider E-Verify to be plagued with errors.

The law will affect 40 percent of businesses in the state and will be enforced starting October 2012 and is to be fully phased-in by July 2013.

It does, however, exempt companies in certain sectors such as agriculture that employ temporary workers.

It also allows individuals to report anonymously on companies they suspect of having undocumented employees and sets fines for breaking the law that could be as much as $2,000 for each illegal worker.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia are among the 16 states in the country that use E-Verify to check jobseekers' credentials against federal databases.

In a previously announced step, Perdue vetoed bill HB 351, which would have required voters to show a photo ID, such as a driver's license, at the polls.

"We must always be vigilant in protecting the integrity of our elections. But requiring every voter to present a government-issued photo ID is not the way to do it," the governor said in a statement. "This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters."

Those opposed to the measure said it was a maneuver by the Republican-controlled legislature to keep blacks, Latinos and other minorities from voting.

North Carolina is considered a key state for Democrats, who cannot afford to lose it in the 2012 presidential election.