Confused About Voter ID? You’re Not Alone

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

The eyes of the nation are truly turned to Pennsylvania as the ACLU is back in court today challenging Pennsylvania’s strictest-in-the-nation Voter ID Law. The Commonwealth Court is hearing evidence to determine whether the new Department of State voter ID will do the trick to ensure that anyone who needs an ID can get one, for free, in time to vote in November. If the state fails to make that case, the judge could issue an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect.

Early evidence seems to indicate that could happen. As has reported (subscription), Judge Simpson indicated Tuesday he will consider an injunction and has asked lawyers to be prepared to provide input on its scope and force. 

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center released a report on this topic exactly. The report, Moving Target: Pennsylvania’s Flawed Implementation of the Voter ID Law, asks the question: "How is PennDOT handling the new Department of State ID?" The answer, in layman’s terms, is simple: Not so good.<!–break–>

Seven months after the law was enacted, PennDOT offices still do not all have information about the Voter ID Law, including a poster prepared by the Department of State and basic fact sheets for voters to take.

Worse, we went looking for information about the new Department of State voting ID, and we couldn’t find any. The only information that was available was a press release on the topic issued on July 20 — and to get it you had to ask for it.

PBPC partnered with SEIU staff who conducted observations and interviews in 44 PennDOT driver's license centers between Sept. 10 and 17. They asked PennDOT staff what voters had to do if they wanted a voter ID and if a person who lacked certain documentation could still get an ID.

Across the state, in one-third of the cases, the staff never mentioned the Department of State ID. In close to half the cases, PennDOT staff gave information that was wrong, including telling observers that they would have to pay for the PennDOT ID.

In the most surprising finding, PennDOT staff indicated they would discourage people from getting a Department of State ID because it could only be used for voting purposes. Well, yeah, that was the whole point.

Many PennDOT staffers were genuinely interested in helping people get an ID, but the line staff, information officers and examiners were confused, couldn’t answer questions and had to get help from supervisors to provide even basic information. 

One staffer summed it up well: “We got training for what that was worth, but it’s all confusing because they keep changing things."

So guess what happened? Department of State officials announced Tuesday that they were changing the rules again. An admission that the process is still too hard for voters to get the ID.  

The grounds keep shifting and voters will pay the price. We recommend that the state delay implementation until they can get the procedures in place and everyone who needs it can get an ID. If they won’t do it, Judge Simpson should.

Voting Rights Takes Center Stage at DNC Platform Meeting

Nothing is as fundamental to a democracy as the integrity of the vote.  The two prior presidential elections raised serious questions about that integrity and this issue will be before the DNC Platform Committee today in Pittsburgh.

At issue is the need for voter-verified paper ballots and audits of all elections, rather than paperless touchscreen and pushbutton voting, and the need to respect and protect the rights of voters and make everyone’s access to the polls fair and equal.

“Going forward in the wake of two very flawed national elections in 2000 and 2004 we must make sure that all votes can be accounted for,” said Marybeth Kuznik, Executive Director of VotePA and elected Inspector of Elections in Westmoreland County, PA. “With the technology we will have available for the foreseeable future, that means a voter-verified paper ballot and audits of elections, and strict protections of all citizens’ rights to easily register to vote and cast that ballot.”

Scheduled speakers include Collin Lynch, PhD Candidate in Computer Science at the University of Pittsburgh; Celeste Taylor, Director of Election Administration/Protection for

Everybody VOTE / Center for Civic Participation PA Voice, and Vice Chair of B-PEP, The Black Political Empowerment Project; Harvie Branscomb of the Colorado Voter Group and Coloradoans for Voting Integrity; and Ms. Marybeth Kuznik,

Senator Jim Ferlo of the Pennsylvania 38th District assisted with the event.