New Pa. voter ID law criticized as inconsistent

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Pennsylvanians who vote by absentee ballot in November will need only to provide proof on their applications that they have Social Security cards, state Rep. Dan Frankel said Monday night.

All voters who show up in person on Election Day, however, must have state-approved photo identification, the Squirrel Hill Democrat said.

"If the last four digits [of a Social Security number] are good enough for absentee ballots, they should be good enough for voting at the polls," he said during a discussion of the state's new voter ID law.

Mr. Frankel was one of a half-dozen officials participating in a review of the new rules at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. About 200 people attended, filling the center's Levinson Hall. The event was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Jewish Social Justice Roundtable.

Foes of the new law, passed by the state Legislature in March, warn that it will make it harder for older people, poorer people, those with disabilities and members of minority groups to vote. Many people in those groups are less likely to have valid driver's licenses or other photo-identification cards, opponents say.

Backers of the ID law say it will reduce existing and potential voter fraud. Its terms are similar to laws recently passed in other states.

The law is being challenged in Commonwealth Court in an appeal scheduled to begin Wednesday. The ACLU of Pennsylvania and several other organizations are heading the effort to overturn the legislation.

If the new rules are upheld, it will mean additional, unnecessary expense to solve a non-existent problem of voter impersonation, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Monday's discussion came on the eve of a protest planned for 1 p.m. today in Harrisburg by foes of the law, including the Pennsylvania NAACP.

The state Department of State has estimated that as many as 758,939 registered voters statewide do not have some form of PennDOT-issued ID. They include 99,218 people in Allegheny County.

Descriptions of acceptable photo IDs and a list of frequently asked election questions are available at www.votespa.com. Information also is available by calling 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).

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Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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