State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

ACLU asks judge to halt "misleading" voter ID ads

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 19, 2012 2:07 PM

The lawyers who challenged the voter ID are now asking the same state judge who granted them a preliminary injunction to stop ads about voter ID that are "false and misleading."

They left the door open for this kind of challenge on the day they were handed a partial block of the legislation, which will allow voters to cast ballots on November 6 without showing a photo ID.  Lawyers challenging voter ID said they wanted the state's voter education campaign to change its TV, radio, and bus ads to make clear photo ID isn't required.  The state said they would change their ads. 

Apparently, not enough for the ACLU, whose lawyers claim to have received complaints from people who found ads and other mailers to contain confusing or flat-out wrong information about what's needed to vote next month. 

They're asking Judge Robert Simpson to issue a tall order requiring the state to do the following: 

  • send corrected information "to anyone who received false information from the state since October 2 about the law"
  • halt any ads that say photo ID is needed to vote
  • change robocalls scheduled for the days before the election
  • clear the air with a press release to all media outlets
  • hold a press conference with Commonwealth Secretary Carol Aichele to reiterate that photo ID is not required on November 6.

Full press release is below:

HARRISBURG, PA - The legal team challenging Pennsylvania’s voter ID law filed a petition today asking Judge Robert Simpson to order the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to stop disseminating false information about the need for photo ID on Election Day and to make it to clear to the public that ID will not be required to vote in the November 6 election. This request comes in the wake of several recent mailings by both governmental and non-governmental entities that contained outdated information about the law and have added to voter confusion.

In their petition, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Advancement Project, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter argue that unless this misinformation is corrected, some eligible voters will stay home on Election Day because they mistakenly believe they need ID to vote in this election.

According to the petition, the Commonwealth has circulated misinformation about the voter ID law to voters. Last week, thousands of Pennsylvania seniors received a mailing from PACE/PACENET, a program administered by the Commonwealth's Department of Aging, that included a Dept. of State card about the voter ID law. The card incorrectly states: "Voters are required to show photo ID on Election Day.”

In addition, petitioners’ counsel has received dozens of complaints from people that they have heard and seen radio and TV ads that still say voters need photo ID to vote. As recently as October 11, some PennDOT locations were still displaying outdated posters and information telling people they need ID to vote. Pennsylvania’s voting laws prohibit dissemination of false or misleading information to the electorate about voting.

In their motion, petitioners argue that the Commonwealth has failed to clearly inform the public that the voter ID law will not be in effect for the November 2012 election. Rather than creating ads that clearly state this information, the Commonwealth instead chose to continue with its “Show It” campaign and merely add the phrase “if you have it” in small print to note that ID would not be required. These minimal changes to the “Show It” campaign are not enough to combat previous efforts by the Commonwealth to publicize the law, including multiple press releases, press conferences, and a postcard mailing in September to all registered voters.

The petitioners are asking the Commonwealth Court to issue an order requiring that the Commonwealth send notices with correct information to anyone who received false information from the state since October 2 about the law; immediately cease running any ads that still tell voters they must have photo ID to vote; re-word robocalls scheduled for the run-up to the election; issue a clarifying press release to all media outlets; and direct Secretary Carol Aichele to hold a press conference announcing that photo ID is not required to vote this Election Day.

A copy of the petition is available at: http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/Petition101912.pdf

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