I. In Focus This Week
News Analysis: Pa. counties get ready to give voter ID test run
Counties and state working out kinks before law goes live in November
With less than a week to go until the April 24 primary, elections officials throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are busy getting ready. They are testing voting machines, making sure that ballots are the right size and that they have enough on hand and making sure the voter registration rolls are ready to go.
But this year, in addition to all the traditional primary preparations, Pennsylvania elections officials and poll workers are preparing to ask voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot on Tuesday.
On March 14, both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved House Bill 934, requiring voters in the Commonwealth to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law that night.
The law, which officially goes into effect on November 6, requires voters to show a photo ID with an expiration date. Acceptable forms of ID include driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, passport, military ID, college IDs issued by a public or private school in Pennsylvania, employee IDs from county, state, local and federal governments and ID cards issued by a state care facility.
County election officials are using the April 24 primary as a test run of the new law for poll workers and voters alike.
With the passage of the law a little more than a month before the primary, elections officials are scrambling to train poll workers, prepare signage, and educate voters…in addition to all the other primary preparations.
“The training will be done on Saturday, April 21st and I will hand out the instructions from the Department of State and go over the new law,” explained Cindy Furman, director of elections for Wayne County.
Furman said that in addition to training her poll workers, the bureau of elections will be working on a variety of voter education efforts including an announcement on its website, public service announcements in local media outlets and a large sign posted at each polling place.
Melinda Freed, a poll worker training consultant for Allegheny County has had to alter her training sessions a bit to accommodate the new law and in particular the dry run on the 24th. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Freed goes a bit beyond just giving the poll workers a hand out.
"April 24 is a practice run," she said. "When voters enter the polling place, say 'Hi, we are practicing for November. Can we see some ID?' If they do not have it, say 'no problem' but give them the handout explaining what kind of identification is needed and where they can get acceptable ID."
Freed told the paper that because many poll workers have years of experience working the polls in Allegheny County that she doesn’t anticipate too many issues on the poll worker side of the table on Tuesday.
Poll workers in Schuylkill County have already had their training sessions about implementing the dry run of the new law and according to Frannie Brennan, election bureau director, poll workers will hand out fliers to those who don’t have or won’t show ID.
In Lycoming County, Sandy Adams, director of county voter services said that no one will be required to show an ID at the polling places on Tuesday, but they will be given a hand-out explaining the new law and how they can get an ID if necessary.
Adams told the Sun Gazette that following the primary election, the county will begin an initiative to educate county voters on how to get a photo ID.
The soft roll-out of the voter ID law in Delaware County is a countywide effort with members of the county council pitching in on the voter education effort.
“In talking to residents, we recognize that people have questions and we want to be sure that people have the correct information on what constitutes acceptable photo ID, how they obtain a photo ID and how that impacts people who vote by absentee ballot,” County Councilman David White—the council’s liaison to the election bureau told the Springfield Patch.
By not officially implementing the law until November, in addition to county officials having time to prepare for it, state officials have begun to work on some kinks in the law that legislators failed to tackle such as voters who object to having their photo taken for religious reasons — Pennsylvania has a large Amish and Mennonite population — as well as accommodating senior citizens who may have expired licenses and no need for a new one.
And of course with the ACLU and NAACP both threatening lawsuits, whether or not the law goes into effect in November remains to be seen.
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