State House Sound Bites

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

Turnout: lower. Voter ID mishaps: fewer.

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 7, 2012 10:18 PM

For all the talk of brisk turnout and bustling polling places, it wasn’t a record-breaking year. Roughly five-and-a-half million people cast ballots. That’s about 65 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania. 2008 saw about a 68 percent voter turnout.

Stephanie Singer, Philadelphia City Commissioner, says the preliminary election results show the city’s turnout this year down by about 40,000 voters, but provisional ballots have yet to be counted.

“Votes for president, in 2008, we had about 693,000, and we had about, this year, about 653,000,” she said. The figure pertains only to votes cast on machines Tuesday. Urban areas played a key role in the Democratic sweeps of the three state row offices, and also gave President Obama Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.

There were also Election Day hiccups, but not on the order some doomsayers predicted in the wake of the partial block of the state’s voter ID law.

All day Tuesday, scattered reports emerged of people being required by poll workers to show photo ID before casting their ballots. A state judge ruled in October that voters need only be asked to show certain kinds of acceptable photo ID, but not required to show it.

But Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said the incidents his office followed up on involved first-time voters, who have long been required to show photo- or non-photo I-D at the polls. And Ruman said sometimes the people doing the complaining were misinformed – like those who called the state to say polling place signs about voter ID were wrong.

“When we looked into it further, through the counties, we found out that the signs were correct in that what they were saying is your photo ID will be requested, but not required, and that is what the law was before the election,” said Ruman.

He added his office received some valid complaints about outdated voter ID signage, and those signs were ordered to be taken down.

But Singer said no one knows how many voters may have stayed home because they thought voter ID would be in effect based on the state’s ads, which were revised in early October.

“How many people saw those ads that the Department of State continued to put up, that showed a person showing a driver’s license and thought, ‘Gee I don’t have a driver’s license, I’m not going to be able to vote this year,’” said Singer. “I don’t think we’ll ever know that.”

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