Saturday, July 7, 2012
Civic groups urge delay in
Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law
By Bob Warner
Inquirer Staff Writer READER FEEDBACK
Pa. says 758,000-plus voters lack PennDOT photo ID
Groups appeal for delay on voter ID; Corbett refuses
Voters without PennDot ID: 9.2%
Voter ID law may hit more in Pennsylvania
Spurred by the disclosure that 758,000 registered voters do not have Pennsylvania drivers’ licenses, six civic groups called on Gov. Corbett on Friday to delay implementation of a new voter-ID requirement for at least a year. The administration immediately rejected the request.
“Our goal since the law was signed is to reach out to all voters to make them aware of the law so all eligible voters are able to get ID if needed and cast ballots in November,” said Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, in charge of the state election machinery.
Ruman said Corbett did not have authority on his own to delay the photo-ID requirement and would not ask the Republican-controlled legislature to change the law, passed and signed by the governor in March. “The administration supports the law,” Ruman wrote in an e-mail, “because it protects the integrity of every vote and voter by giving Pennsylvania for the first time a reliable way to verify the identity of each voter at the polls. This will help detect and deter any illegal voting.”
The new law will require every voter going to the polls in November to provide a specified form of photo identification: either a Pennsylvania driver’s license, a nondriver photo ID issued by PennDot, a U.S. passport, a photo ID from an accredited Pennsylvania college, U.S. military ID, ID from a Pennsylvania care facility, or photo ID issued to government employees.
While PennDot ID would be valid for voting up to 12 months after expiration, the other forms of ID would have to be current, with specified expiration dates.
When the photo-ID requirement was moving through the legislature last winter, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele told lawmakers that 99 percent of the state’s voters already had the necessary identification, most of them through PennDot.
Tuesday afternoon, the day before the July Fourth holiday, her department issued a news release disclosing the results of a computerized match between PennDot’s databases and a database of registered voters.
It showed 758,000 voters statewide – about 9.2 percent – did lack PennDot-issued identification, either a driver’s license or a nondriver photo ID.
In Philadelphia, the numbers were significantly worse, with 18 percent of registered voters not having PennDot ID.
Six organizations, including the state League of Women Voters, Pennsylvania Common Cause, the state ACLU, the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, the Committee of Seventy, and the Advancement Project cited the numbers Friday while asking the state to postpone voter ID.
“We are urging Gov. Corbett to go to the leaders of the General Assembly with a bill to delay implementation of the voter-ID law for at least one year, so all the state’s 8.2 million voters can be properly educated . . . and people who do not have a photo ID for voting can have ample time to obtain one,” said Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, vice president and policy director for the Committee of Seventy.
The ACLU and the Advancement Project are providing legal support for trying to have the law ruled a violation of the state constitution. A Commonwealth Court hearing is scheduled for July 25.
The Pennsylvania Voter ID coalition, roughly 100 groups concerned about the impact of the new law, is offering advice and help on compliance. Its telephone hotline is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
Additional information is available through the Committee of Seventy at http://www.seventy.org/Elections_Voter_ID.aspx
The Department of State is also offering advice on a website, www.votespa.com, and by telephone during business hours, 1-877-VotesPA (1-877-868-3772).