State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Voter ID signed into law

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 15, 2012 3:09 AM

After three days of floor debate, the state House passed a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.  Governor Corbett signed the bill into law Wednesday evening. 


So what’s next for the rules called a “poll tax” by opponents and “common sense” by supporters?


Carol Aichele, Secretary of the Commonwealth, said at the bill signing that e-mails were ready to go out Wednesday night notifying county election offices of the change in policy.


For the upcoming primary election on April 24, poll workers are supposed to request, but not require, that voters show photo ID.


“Then, we’re asking that the poll worker hand that voter a small sheet of paper which has the basics of the voter ID bill on it [with] what types of voter ID will be acceptable for the fall election and where [voters] can go to get more information,” said Ron Ruman, spokesman for the Department of State.


For the general election in November, poll workers are to observe the new rules, and require voters to show one of the acceptable types of photo ID.


Voters will be able to show a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID from PennDOT.  State and federal government-issued IDs are OK, as are employee IDs from Pennsylvania county and municipal governments.  Also fine: ID from an accredited Pennsylvania college or university, or Pennsylvania nursing homes and assisted living facilities.


IDs must have an expiration date and a photo, unless a voter uses a special PennDOT license without a photo because of the voter’s religious objections to being photographed.


Voters without any of the above can get a free ID from PennDOT before the general election.  Gov. Corbett said PennDOT would start issuing free IDs immediately on Thursday.


A voter without necessary ID on Election Day can cast a special ballot.  It would be counted if she shows acceptable identification to the county election office within six days of the election.


The Department of State is expecting it to cost a little less than $5 million to spread the word of the changes.  Aichele said the agency is in the process of choosing a media consultant to find a vendor to conduct the awareness campaign.  Part of the plan would include sending postcards with the new ID requirements to registered voters in September.


Ruman said the public education plan would ramp up in the fall months before the election, and “will reach all the voters in Pennsylvania.”  


After signing the voter ID bill, Gov. Corbett said he’s expecting delays at the polls this fall, but not because of the new requirements. 


“There’ll be lines.  It’s a presidential year,” he said, adding later that he thought the law would bring more voters out to the polls: “I believe what you will see is increased participation.”


Democrats accused Republicans of rushing the implementation of voter ID in order to affect this year’s presidential election results and discourage voters more likely to be Democrats.


Republicans say this law has been a long time coming.


“I started working on this 10 years ago,” said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), who sponsored voter ID.


House Democrats said they’re working with their counterparts in the Senate on a legal challenge to the law, which they claim violates the state and U.S. constitutions.


House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he’s not worried.  He points to what he calls a “similar” voter ID law in Indiana, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. 


No House Democrats voted for the bill, but three Republicans voted against it: Rep. Kurt Masser, of Montour County, Rep. Marguerite Quinn, of Bucks County, and Rep. Chris Ross, of Chester County.



Photo: Corbett signs voter ID bill Wednesday, flanked by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks), and Commonwealth Secretary Carol Aichele.




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