Committee of Seventy: Most PA-Born Voters Can Expect Difficulties When Applying for New Voter ID
The non-partisan group recommends a change to new voter ID system.
From the Committee of Seventy:
The new state photo ID, touted by state officials as a cure for voters who don’t have a photo ID that will be accepted at the polls on November 6 and can’t get one, is easier to get for voters born in other states and countries than those born in Pennsylvania.
Most voters born outside Pennsylvania are eligible for a new state ID, available today, on the same day they apply for it. But most Pennsylvania-born voters must make two trips to a PennDOT Driver’s License Center and produce more documents than an out-of-state-born voter.
The non-partisan Committee of Seventy, which champions fair elections, urged Governor Corbett, the Pennsylvania Department of State and PennDOT to treat all voters the same, regardless of where they were born.
“The new state ID has been hyped as a ‘safety’ net for voters unable to get the documents required to get a photo ID in order to vote,” said Zack Stalberg, Committee of Seventy President and CEO. “The same ‘safety net’ should be available to every voter.”
He noted that the state first promised its new ID on July 19 and has yet to issue comprehensive guidelines.
“As it turns out, the process of getting a photo ID to vote on November 6 for most PA-born voters is virtually unchanged from what it was last week.”
Noting 2010 census data reporting that 74.5% of the state’s residents were born in Pennsylvania, Stalberg said it’s fair to predict that most of the state’s registered voters were also born here.
The same-day state ID will be issued by a PennDOT Driver’s License Center only to voters who cannot find or obtain either of two documents required to get a photo ID for voting – a birth certificate or Social Security card – or cannot obtain these documents without paying a fee. This applies to most voters born outside of Pennsylvania since almost all states and foreign countries require a fee in order to obtain a birth certificate. For instance, a voter born across the Delaware River in Camden is eligible for the new state ID since it costs $25 to get a birth certificate from the N.J. Office of Vital Records.
By contrast, a voter born in South Philadelphia must make two trips to a PennDOT Driver’s License Center. The first trip is to fill out a request to certify his/her birth record. After receiving a letter certifying, or failing to certify, their birth record up to ten days later, the voter must return to the Driver’s License Center with the letter, a Social Security card and two proofs of residency. A voter whose birth record is certified is eligible for a PennDOT photo ID, which can be used for voting or other purposes. A voter whose birth record cannot be certified is eligible for the new state ID, which can only be used for voting. Both IDs are free.
“Many voters are finding it difficult just making one trip to a PennDOT Driver’s License Center,” Stalberg observed. “Two trips are exceedingly difficult, especially for senior voters or voters who live far from one of the Centers. If a same-day state ID is available for out-of-state-born voters, it should also be available for in-state-born voters. There is no justification for prejudicing a voter who happened to be born in Pennsylvania.”
Comprehensive information about the Committee of Seventy, the Voter ID law, and resources available to help voters get a photo ID for voting can be found at www.seventy.org/voterID.