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Photo ID’s created by State for voters beginning August 26

By Staff | Aug 15, 2012

MUNCY – Trying to get a voter ID for this upcoming election has not been an easy task for some people, especially seniors who are no longer driving and have to procure the proper documentation. It has been a daunting process as many have had to wait several hours at the closest PennDOT office located in Loyalsock Township in the TJMaxx Plaza. Since this November’s presidential election is requiring an official photo ID, the Pennsylvania State Department said it will offer a special photo ID card for voters who can’t obtain birth certificates or other documents needed for a non-driver ID issued by the Department of Transportation.

However, getting to that point will take some time. Craig Kaufman from Williamsport has been spending his summer taking seniors to PennDot where he said there is possibly a long wait. The initial visit explains what documents are necessary. “Last week after taking a hopeful voter to PennDOT on the second visit we took a number as suggested and waited one hour and five minutes for him to be waited on. It then took thirty five minutes for the officials there to process his paperwork, take his picture and issue a temporary (good for fifteen day) ID,” he said. The challenge now is to qualify voters in time for the upcoming general election.

Starting the last week of August the new special ID card will be offered by PennDot as it is designed to provide a “safety net” for voters who are unable to get the documents they need according to Secretary of State, Carole Aichele. It is estimated that about 12 percent of 8.3 million registered voters lack the proper ID in Pennsylvania. PennDOT would have to issue over 15,000 ID cards every business day between August 26, the date the procedure is supposed to take effect and Election Day according to a recent state report. The report also stated that those who are unable to provide all of the required documents such as those born outside of Pennsylvania, often have difficulty obtaining their birth certificate which is needed to qualify for the new state ID card.

Charley Hall from Representative Garth Everett’s office in Muncy Township said that they will still need to provide their Social Security number, birth date and two proofs of residence such as a utility bill. “We have been mostly helping with birth certificates from our office,” said Hall. Everett said, “We are trying to get integrity back into our voting system. It is not new. Other states are already doing it.” After the 2000 election, legislators wanted to strengthen Pennsylvania’s election integrity, and so a number of reforms were passed. This included prohibiting polling places to be in people’s homes or party headquarters and that all polling centers are to be ADA compliant. According to Everett there have been a lot of voting irregularities at polling places in the Philadelphia area, but not as much in rural areas. Thus, Act 18 became the law on March 14, 2012. Everett shared some issue points in the new law. “There have been 107,432 new voter registration applications since March 14 (compared to 75,961 in 2010 during the same timeframe) and 159,875 if you go back to January 1.”

Civil rights groups are challenging the constitutionality of the new law and so some provisions have been made for younger voters and seniors. The 14 state-owned universities will add expiration dates to their student ID’s, and senior and long-term care facilities are working to issue compliant ID cards. As part of the defense against the Voter ID lawsuit, the State announced that those without proper ID can request, at no charge, a new Voter ID card from PennDOT beginning the last week of August. This card will be available to registered voters who are not able to provide all of the documents they would normally need. PennDOT will still need to confirm the birth records for voting purposes.

Although there have not been large arrests for voter fraud in Pennsylvania, nobody is checking now, so provisions have to be made according to Everett. “In other areas poll workers are not checking the names or residences to see if they’ve voted or not,” he said. “They need to look for matching signatures. Nobody polices this or checks this now. It is anecdotal,” Everett said. “Voter registration rules are now becoming more cleaned up,” he said. He also explained how those who move from one state to another can be a challenge, or even into a different part of the state. “There is no requirement made to notify that someone has moved,” he said. “Now cross checking data bases and more accurate lists can be made.” Everett referenced a personal family experience with his daughter who recently moved to Ohio. “She registered there and for two years her name was still remaining at her home address (Muncy).” She used her home address while she was in college and the military.

Everett said there are several ways to get the proof needed, and notices have been sent to residents since the law was passed. He also said his office will help any way they can to help get what they need. “I want everybody to vote.”

Hall said he is mostly busy with birth certificates, often used for passports. They also assist with absentee ballots for home bound residents. “There is still time to get it done,” added Everett. “They can still vote at the polls and will get a provisional ballot to follow up with the proper ID. We can help people get birth certificates, especially in a time crunch.” Hall responded that they do free notarizations as well.

If over the age of 18 the necessary proof requires a place of residence which can be mortgage documents, credit card bills, or utility bills. “This is only difficult in the initial stages, getting the documents,” Hall said acknowledging that this will be the first election the law takes into effect. “There are always some folks who aren’t compliant with the law.”

Everett added that an ID card can be obtained up until the day of the election. “If the Supreme Court looks at the law and enough evidence is brought, and they think it’s a problem, they will come up with a new plan,” he said.