News Column

Pennsylvania Makes It Easier to Obtain Voter ID Cards

Sep 25 2012 10:00PM

Matt Hughes, The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

Ballot Box

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is easing requirements for obtaining an identification card needed to vote in the November election. The changes to the voter ID issuing process came hours before a court hearing on whether Pennsylvania's voter ID law will effectively strip some people of the right to vote this year.

PennDOT announced Tuesday that those seeking identification for voting purposes will have a choice of requesting either a non-driver photo ID issued by PennDOT or a voting-only ID card issued by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Previously Department of State IDs would be issued only when an applicant could not meet the more stringent documentation requirements needed to obtain a "secure" PennDOT ID.

Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said the application process was adjusted to satisfy a week-old state Supreme Court decision.

"They had concerns that having people go through the PennDOT ID procedure first might not have been what the legislature thought of when they said, make the voter IDs be readily available," Ruman said.

In a 4-2 decision last week, the state Supreme Court ordered a Commonwealth Court hearing to determine whether the state is providing easy access to a valid photo ID, as promised by the law. If it is not, or if the judge believes any registered voters will be prevented from casting a ballot, the judge should halt the law from taking effect in the election, the high court said.

The Commonwealth Court hearing held Tuesday in Harrisburg was continued until Thursday.

PennDOT and the Department of State have also dropped a requirement for applicants to provide proof of residency to obtain a voter-only ID and will now mail IDs to voters when they cannot be issued on the spot.

Applicants seeking a voting-only ID must supply a name, date of birth, address and Social Security number and swear under penalty of law that they have no other form of ID that is valid for voting. The information they provide is cross-referenced with voter registration data, and if the data matches an ID will be issued on the spot.

Ruman said about 100 of the 10,000 Pennsylvania residents that have been issued PennDOT or Department of State IDs were not able to get ID the day they applied, sometimes due to discrepancies regarding Social Security numbers, but most often because their voter registration information had not been processed and entered into the state's database. Counties legally have 10 days to process voter registrations.

"What's happening is people were registering to vote and then going right over to PennDOT, and (they were) not in the system yet," Ruman said.

Previously applicants who could not be issued ID on the spot would be notified by mail when their card was ready and would need to return to the driver license center where they applied to pick up their ID. IDs will now be mailed directly to applicants.

Voters may apply for a voter ID up to and on Election Day, Nov. 6, or even after the election if they vote by provisional ballot. PennDOT also said Tuesday that 48 driver license centers, which are typically closed Mondays, will open on Monday, Nov. 5, to issue last-minute voter IDs. License centers in Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Dunmore are included.

Voters who do not have ID on Election Day are allowed to cast provisional ballots that will be counted if the voter provides proof of identification to their county election office within six days of the election. This year that deadline will be Tuesday, Nov. 13, because the sixth day after the election is Veterans Day and government offices will be closed.

Only registered voters will be issued voter IDs. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Voter ID Requirements

Voters in the November election will be required to show an acceptable photo ID with an expiration date that is current. Acceptable IDs are:

Photo IDs issued by the federal or Pennsylvania government (including Department of State voter ID card)

Pennsylvania driver's license or non-driver photo ID

U.S. passport

U.S. military ID (active duty, veteran or military dependent ID)

Employee photo ID issued by the federal, Pennsylvania State or Pennsylvania county or municipal government

Photo ID from an accredited educational institution in Pennsylvania

Photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania care facility

Those without one of these forms of ID will need to obtain either a PennDOT non-driver photo ID or a Department of State voter ID from a PennDOT Driver's License Center. The requirements for obtaining these IDs are as follows:

PennDOT non-driver photo ID:

Social Security card, two proofs of residency such as lease agreements, current utility bills, mortgage documents, W-2 form or tax records and one of the following:

Certificate of U.S. citizenship

Certificate of naturalization

Birth certificate with a raised seal

Department of State voter ID:

Applicants must swear that they have no other ID that is valid for voting and supply their:

Name

Date of birth

Address

Social Security number

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: c)2012 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)


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