Revised voter ID ads air in Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG -- The state is back on the air with voter ID advertisements updated to reflect a court order that photo identification will not be required at the election next month.

After the Commonwealth Court last week ordered the state to allow voters without photo identification to cast regular ballots next month, the Department of State pulled its TV and other advertisements about the voter ID law. Revised advertisements aired in some markets Tuesday and across the state Wednesday, said Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Department of State.

The original TV ad told viewers, "to vote in Pennsylvania on Election Day, you need an acceptable photo ID with a valid expiration date," but the revised one says: "When voting in Pennsylvania this Election Day, November 6th, you will be asked but not required to show a photo ID."

The order last week stops the ID requirement only for the November election, calling for a trial before a decision on its permanent status, and the updated TV ad directs viewers to a website and phone number to learn "how to get a photo ID for future elections."

A radio advertisement used a virtually identical script and was likewise amended, Mr. Ruman said. Revised ads will also be out for the Web, billboards, buses and newspapers serving black, Hispanic and college readerships.

With revisions for some ads still in progress, Gloria Blint -- president and CEO of Red House Communications, the Pittsburgh agency that produced the ads -- said she did not yet know the total cost of the changes.

Mr. Ruman said the agency remains confident the education campaign will remain within its $5 million budget, in part because officials decided to cancel a robo-call, planned for late October to homes with registered voters, that would have cost about $77,000. He said the calls were canceled because of concern they could confuse recipients about the requirements for the November election.

"The urgency wasn't there to make sure folks knew about the ID requirement for this election," he said. "We thought maybe the risk outweighed the benefit."

A spokeswoman for the governor's office said the administration has not made a decision about appealing the Commonwealth Court ruling.

The judge's ruling did not affect parts of the voter ID law requiring applicants for an absentee ballot to provide their driver's license number, the last four digits of their Social Security number or a copy of one of the acceptable forms of photo ID. And first-time voters and voters in a new precinct still have to verify their identity with one of a series of forms including government-issued identification and documents like a current utility bill.

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Karen Langley: or 717-787-2141.


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