Voting Rights in Pennsylvania

As you have probably heard, the state of Pennsylvania passed a law mandating that voters must show valid i.d. in order to cast a ballot.  The law goes into effect for the November, 2012 election.  There has been a lot of speculation about how this new law will affect voters, especially older voters.  Voting rights have been hard-won over time.  It is not a right to be taken lightly.

Make sure you have what you need to vote this year.  The ACLU lists these as acceptable forms of ID under the new law:

  •  A current Pennsylvania driver’s license, or one that expired after November 2011;
  • A current non-driver Pennsylvania photo ID card issued by PennDOT, or one that expired after November 2011;
  •  A current U.S. passport;
  • A U.S. military (active duty or retired) or reserve, including the Pennsylvania National Guard, photo ID (but the fine print in the new law says that, if your ID doesn’t have a specific expiration date, the ID must include “a designation that the expiration date is indefinite” (Department of Veterans Affairs IDs do NOT qualify for voting);
  • A U.S. government-issued photo ID, with an expiration date;
  • A photo ID issued by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania (such as a PA State Employee ID);
  • A current employee photo ID issued by a municipality in Pennsylvania. The PA Department of State has interpreted this to include county employee photo IDs, but it does not include school district employees;
  • A current photo ID issued by an “accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.” This applies to students, faculty, and staff, but there are certain important limits.  The ID must have an expiration date, and private licensed schools such as career institutes, technical institutes, massage schools, cosmetology schools, bartending schools, truck driving schools, etc., do not count
  • A current photo ID issued by a “Pennsylvania care facility.” This term includes long-term care nursing facilities, assisted living residences, and personal care homes. To be valid they must contain an expiration date.

See the ACLU website for more information; see it even if you think you hate the ACLU.  I would hate for you to miss the opportunity to vote.

If you do not have one of these valid IDs, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is supposed to be providing FREE non-driver voter ID at their Driver Licensing Centers.  You will need to fill out an affidavit that you do not have other acceptable valid ID, and a form DL-54a.  You will need your official Social Security Card and one of the following: Official Birth Certificate, Valid U.S. Passport, Certificate of U.S. citizenship, or Certificate of Naturalization.  If you were born in PA, but you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, you can ask PennDOT to verify your birth record when you are at the Driver Licensing Center.  Otherwise, you will need an official copy with a raised seal.  You will also need two proofs of residency.

Sounds like a lot to go through to do something you have probably been doing for years with no hassle.  All in the name of preventing voter fraud, which may exist structurally, but has almost never occurred or been prosecuted at the level of the individual voter.  For more details and information on this and other issues, see the C.A.R.I.E. Connection monthly newsletter.

Most strange in all of this is that there are no ID requirements for casting an absentee ballot.  So if you do not have valid ID and cannot obtain it by November 6, 2012 in order to vote, find yourself an absentee ballot, send it in, and hope for the best.

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