Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Voter ID's "soft rollout" did not "work well"

Yesterday afternoon the Department of State released a statement in which Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele claimed that the "soft rollout"- a dipping of the toes into the pool, if you will- on voter ID "seemed to work well."

Around the same time that the department released its statement, I was at a polling place in Cumberland County that had this sign posted.

A volunteer who was working the polls for a candidate said that at least four people walked up to the sign and nearly turned around until the volunteer explained that they don't need ID to vote in this election. We also heard that another polling place in Cumberland County had a similar sign posted, and that at least one Republican voter didn't vote yesterday because of the sign.

Meanwhile, four blocks from Secretary Aichele's Harrisburg office at a polling place at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, this sign was posted. 

I saw the same sign at another polling place in Dauphin County. If you can't read the text on the white paper, it says, "BE PREPARED TO SHOW PHOTO IDENTIFICATION." Elsewhere, we heard anecdotes of some poll workers insisting on seeing ID.
This is what the Department of State means by "seemed to work well." In other news, war is peace, ignorance is strength, and slavery is freedom.

This is what voter suppression and intimidation looks like. In an election in which voters were not required to show ID, polling places were telling voters that ID was "required" and that they better "be prepared" to show ID.

Now, the voter ID supporters have insisted that no one will be turned away on Election Day because the law includes a provision that allows voters without ID to vote by provisional ballot. They then have to show the county a copy of their ID within six days. That's a soft form of disenfranchisement and is incredibly cumbersome.

But signs that tell voters that ID is "required" contradict that awful part of the law. The ACLU of Pennsylvania did not actively blanket the state to watch how voter ID was implemented yesterday. These anecdotes fell into our laps. What kind of signs should we expect to see in November when the law is scheduled to go into effect? Perhaps something like this?

Finally, Secretary Aichele's statement included this concluding sentence:
"Any voter who does not have an acceptable form of photo ID can get one at any PennDOT driver license center free of charge."

That hasn't been our experience. See my colleague Ngani Ndimbie's account of her recent experience at PennDOT in Pittsburgh. Now we've even heard that PennDOT is not issuing free IDs to people with outstanding fines or to people who had an ID that expired within the last year. Where in the law does it say that you can't get an ID to vote because you didn't pay a parking ticket?

The first month of the voter ID law has been a debacle. If Secretary Aichele and Governor Corbett want this law to withstand a legal challenge, the commonwealth will have to do a better job in court than its done so far in implementing this disaster of a law.

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Blogger Andrew J. Meyer said...

Andy, where did you see that sign in Cumberland County? I live in Carlisle, and I was fully expecting not be able to vote yesterday, because I do not have a PA photo ID. Fortunately, no one stopped me and asked for an ID and I was able to vote yesterday. I am sure that organizations like the ACLU will have to be increasingly vigilant about this kind of intimidation in November. I am planning to have a series of speakers at the Dickinson School of Law to address the new PA Voter ID Act. Do you know anyone in the ACLU that would be interested in participating?

In Solidarity,

Andrew J. Meyer
Dickinson School of Law
National Lawyer's Guild

4:14 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Andrew, it was at Good Hope Middle School. Interestingly, there was another precinct at the school, and they had a different sign. The other one that we heard about but didn't see was in Silver Spring Twp.

We could probably send a speaker. Drop us a note at or call 717-238-2258.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Carl Peridier said...

One woman who was out our polling place in Montgomeryville told me that her daughter-in-law went to the Lansdale polling place at Little Italy and was told she needed an ID to vote, and when she showed her the driver's licence, it had expired a month ago. So, she had to sign some kind of pink sheet (provisional ballot?). Wrong on 2 counts: an ID was not needed, and even an expired licence is OK if the expiriation date is less than 12 months ago. Nice smooth roll out! - Carl Peridier

6:57 PM  

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