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Pennsylvania Voter ID Trial Witnesses: PennDOT Can’t Handle Voter-ID Demands

August 1, 2012   ·   Philadelphia Inquirer   ·  Source Article

Witnesses in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court have testified about the problems with the new voter ID law requiring government issued photo ID from all voters. Part of the law requires the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to issue free voter ID cards to voters without a driver’s license or other suitable forms of ID, but as the witnesses attested, getting these free IDs could be difficult or impossible for the estimated hundreds of thousands of voters who don’t currently have PennDOT ID. The Secretary of the Commonwealth, Carol Aichele, testified that the state was doing all it could to provide ID to voters who need it, but that they were only expecting that about 100,000 would need ID. Based on the testimonies of the witnesses, though, the implementation of the law has been shoddy at best.

One of the main problems arises from the offices issuing the ID themselves. Many of these offices are open only one day a week, leaving only 13 business days between now and Election Day for voters to get ID. Some offices employ contract workers, who have refused to offer assistance or provide the free voter ID, telling people to come back when a PennDOT employee is in. Other offices are difficult to get to, with limited or no public transportation to get citizens there. Another major hurdle is misinformation among clerks who have asked voters to pay a fee for the ID that is supposed to be free, or have admitted that they are unsure about the provisions of the law.

Above and beyond the clerical issues that prevent voters from receiving the ID, some voters are stuck in a catch-22 of identification, where they need ID to get ID. One witness explained her situation: she does not drive because of a psychological disability, so has no ID. In order to get the free ID she needs to provide a birth certificate, and because she was born in Germany and immigrated here, she needs a photo ID to get a copy. She has voted for the past 35 years, and stated, "I vote because it's important to me to make my voice heard," Gray testified. "I may now be prevented by clerical stumbling blocks."

The plaintiffs in the case are seeking a court injunction to block the law and protect the right to vote for the voters who are having their right to vote threatened by this requirement.

Read the full Philadelphia Inquirer article here