Details of voter ID card released

Opponents say problems remain

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HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania's Department of State released details Friday about the new voter identification card it will begin offering next month as a "safety net" for those who otherwise cannot comply with the new election law.

A photo ID card -- with an expiration date and issued by a government agency, a state university or one of the commonwealth's nursing homes -- will be required of Pennsylvanians in order to cast a ballot at the polls in November.

Critics of the law and new figures from the Department of State have raised questions about whether all eligible voters will be able to acquire proper identification before the election.

The new ID card will be available next month for voters who are not able to provide all of the documents, such as a birth certificate, that they would need to obtain other state-issued photo IDs.

A Department of State spokesman, Nick Winkler, said the option will apply largely to residents without photo ID who were born out of state, who may have difficulties acquiring a copy of their birth certificate.

In order to receive the free ID card, registered voters must give their Social Security number and date of birth and show two documents proving their residence, such as a utility bill. The cards will be valid for 10 years and can be used only for voting.

"Our goals are to continue making voters aware of the new voter ID law and helping those who may not have proper identification obtain it," said department secretary Carol Aichele in a statement.

Court documents filed this week in a lawsuit challenging the voter ID law first revealed the agency's proposal for an additional ID option.

The coalition of opposition groups that brought the legal challenge -- including the state's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and a Washington, D.C., law firm -- said in a statement Friday that the new option doesn't resolve logistical hurdles created by the law.

"It certainly is of no help to the elderly or those with disabilities who will still have to find a way to PennDOT and potentially wait hours to get the new ID," the legal team wrote. "PennDOT is simply not equipped to handle an influx of hundreds of thousands of individuals needing ID."

A Commonwealth Court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled to begin Wednesday. Opponents of the law also are planning to rally Tuesday at the state Capitol.

state

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.


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