Your Government: "Trust us to get it right on voter ID."
Along with the personal stories about people without ID, government officials took the stand today to discuss numerous angles to the voter ID law and its implementation.
The first witness of the day was Shannon Royer, Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth. Mr. Royer’s responsibilities include overseeing the state’s bureau of elections. The department has a public education campaign planned that will include radio and television ads, robocalls and mailings to voters, mobile billboards, and ads on public transportation in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and the Lehigh Valley.
The deputy secretary admitted on the stand that the most intensive effort will occur after Labor Day, two months before the election.
Is that enough time for people without ID to get it? Not according to Michele Levy, managing attorney at the Homeless Advocacy Project. According to Ms. Levy, in her experience with helping homeless people get birth certificates, which is necessary to get a PennDOT ID, the timeline to get the birth certificate is 10-12 weeks to a year “to never.”
Royer also cited a Susquehanna Polling and Research poll from “May or June” that showed that 18 percent of people- or 1.4 million Pennsylvanians- did not know about the voter ID law. (He couched it as 82 percent of Pennsylvanians knew about the law.) Meanwhile, Dr. Barreto’s testimony from yesterday showed that a significant percentage of people who think they have an acceptable ID for voting actually do not.
Attorney Jennifer Clarke of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia showed a letter that was recently sent to voters who are not in the PennDOT database. The letter encouraged voters to get an ID and said, “If you have never had a Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT photo ID, you may also need further documentation, such as a birth certificate, a Social Security card, and two proofs of residency.” (emphasis added)
Attorney Clarke pointed out that the documentation is not optional, as the letter suggests. It’s required.
Secretary Royer also testified that the original target date to begin issuing the department’s new voting ID was originally July 24. That date was pushed back to August 26.
Mark Wolosik, the elections division manager in Allegheny County, testified that the Department of State informed his office that 100,000 registered voters in the county do not appear in PennDOT’s database. Wolosik also noted that, in his 42 years in the division, the office has never referred a voter impersonation fraud case to the district attorney.
The final witness of the day was Kurt Myers, Deputy Secretary of PennDOT. Myers testified to his desire for the state driver’s license and the non-driving ID to be “secure” documents. Myers realized in the spring and informed administration officials that there would be voters who could not get a PennDOT ID due to the documentation requirements. That’s where the idea of a Department of State voting ID, issued by PennDOT, began.
Attorney David Gersch of Arnold & Porter used a map of Pennsylvania to illustrate that 32 counties have no license center or a center that is only open one or two days per week.
In a memo to the department’s legislative affairs staff in April, 2011, Myers stated that one negative of the voter ID bill was the potential impact on PennDOT staff that he characterized as “already taxed.” The department aims to have 99 percent of customers out the door within 30 minutes but that percentage is typically only in the high 80s.
Myers also said that 3,000 free non-driving IDs have been distributed since the law’s passage in March but did acknowledge, under questioning from Gersch, that there were problems in the early weeks in which PennDOT staff did not give IDs for free
Finally, although state and transportation plan to roll out the new voting ID on August 26, the vendor contracted for the job does not have a deadline of August 26, and the contract has no penalty for failing to complete the job by that date.
Everyone gets a break for the weekend. The court is adjourned until Monday at 10am.