The ID debate: Pennsylvania must sort out its voting law soon

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The voting is over but the debate over Pennsylvania's voter ID law goes on. That's good, because the trial run last April and again on Nov. 6 failed to provide assurance that the new rules for voters can be fairly applied.

Because a Commonwealth Court ruling said the state was ill-prepared for implementation and that voters could have been improperly stopped from casting ballots, the Department of State told poll workers to ask voters for identification at this election, but not require it to allow people to vote.

That backup method produced spotty results. In some places, poll workers did not ask for ID; in others, signs incorrectly said ID was required. Even some information given to poll workers by election boards were inaccurate, according to reports being investigated by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In addition, the Department of State reported more than 530 complaints through an online form it had created to get feedback from participants. While that's a small number out of the 5 million who cast ballots, the response seems significant.

Proponents have questioned results in Philadelphia, where not one vote was cast for Mitt Romney in 59 voting districts, and in Pittsburgh, where four precincts had no votes for the Republican. Unanimous results, they suggest, indicate possible fraud. It would be a travesty if that proves true, and the state must prevent vote tampering.

However, the voter ID law was enacted to prevent a different kind of fraud -- instances in which individuals pretend to be someone else in order to cast votes. And even state officials agreed, before the law was enacted, that they have no evidence of that taking place.

The status of Pennsylvania's law remains unsettled. The court order was in effect only for this month's election, and the ACLU has pledged to take its challenge of the law as far as possible.

It's important to get a resolution, and clear instructions for both voters and poll workers, soon. The primary election is just six months away, and that's when Pittsburghers will choose nominees for mayor and city council. Because of the dominance of the Democratic Party within the city, the primary winners typically coast to easy wins in the fall elections.

It's vital that registered citizens who wish to participate are ready to vote in those and other important contests.



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