Critics of Pa. voter ID law say time is of essence; state suggests free cards

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HARRISBURG -- The challengers of the Pennsylvania voter ID law worked Thursday to cast doubt on whether the state would issue its safety-net form of identification quickly enough for voters to use at the polls.

The parties asking the state courts to permanently block the law said a Department of State database shows 124 registered voters who applied for a free voter ID before the November 2012 election received the ID card after Election Day or did not receive it.

The free Department of State ID card is available by application at a Department of Transportation licensing center to registered voters who do not have another form of identification, such as a driver's license, that can be used for voting.

But some of the voters in the database -- perhaps including those who did not receive their Department of State ID on time -- had another form of identification, a witness from the Department of State said, leaving doubt about which, if any, of those voters were left without an acceptable identification.

Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and one of the attorneys in the case, said the database showed that since the introduction of a simplified process for obtaining the Department of State IDs, 42 registered voters who sought the cards before the November election received them afterward and 82 registered voters did not receive them at all.

Jonathan Marks, commissioner of the agency's Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, said those numbers sounded right and did not surprise him.

After an initial trial last summer, the courts stopped the state from requiring photo identification at the polls in November 2012.

The initial rollout of the law, in which voters were asked, but not required, to show photo identification, was extended through that election and the primary election in May.

Mr. Walczak said that if the courts had upheld the voter ID law, the 124 voters would not have been allowed to cast a regular ballot.

The law allows for voters without acceptable identification to submit a provisional ballot that would count if they verify their identity within six days.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett's general counsel, said the ID cards were sent out as soon as they were processed. But he dismissed as speculative questions about what would have happened to any voters still lacking identification if the courts had not suspended the requirement.

"It's a purely hypothetical discussion because they were not required to show ID last November or even this spring," he said.

In the afternoon, Shannon Royer, deputy secretary for external affairs and elections at the Department of State, testified about efforts to inform voters about the law.

The agency has $2 million in this year's budget for education about voter ID, he said.

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Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141.


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