What does Voter ID mean for PSEA members?
Published September 2012 Voice
Democracy in Pennsylvania was dealt a blow with a Commonwealth Court judge’s decision to uphold Gov. Tom Corbett’s new voter ID law.
Judge Robert Simpson rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments that the Republican-orchestrated law, which requires voters to show photo ID at the polls, unfairly targets certain segments of the population – most notably older citizens, people with disabilities, minorities, students, and low-income people.
Update: On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 4-2 to send the issue back to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which had previously upheld the law. The Supreme Court ordered Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson to stop the law from taking effect if he finds it will prevent qualified voters from casting a ballot. Simpson has until October 2 to give both sides a chance to make new arguments. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson will hold a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 25 in response to the Supreme Court ruling.
"Hopefully, in the end this unnecessary and unjust law that deprives people of their fundamental right to vote will not stand," said PSEA Vice President Jerry Oleksiak. "But we must be prepared, and that means educating our members on the requirements of the law and how to comply."
What does it mean for PSEA members?
It means electing pro-education candidates and turning back the destructive policies of the Corbett administration just got a little harder.
Similar laws have sprouted like weeds in 37 states across the country as part of an attempt to, as Pennsylvania House Majority Chairman Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, put it, “allow Mitt Romney to win...”
Pennsylvania's law was sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate lobbying organization that writes a wide range of sample legislation focused on “free-market interests” that are typically anti-public education and anti-collective bargaining. In this case, you add anti-democracy as well.
Here are some things PSEA members can do to help ensure everyone can vote on November 6:
- Make sure that every one of your colleagues is registered to vote and has the right photo ID
- Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they are registered, and have the proper ID
- Provide or help arrange rides for those needing them to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to obtain ID
- Sign the petition opposing the law at www.psea.org/voterID
Education is crucial
Testimony before Judge Simpson put the potential number of voters without eligible ID at more than 1 million people.
Then there is the unknown number of potential voters who may become frustrated and walk away because of long lines at the polls as election officials and poll workers try to comply with the demands of the new law.
It’s important for PSEA members to educate themselves and others about what ID is acceptable and how to obtain it.
Even if you have voted at the same place for years, you will be required to show one of the following forms of photo ID:
- Pennsylvania driver’s license
- PennDOT non-driver ID
- U.S. passport
- U.S. government-issued ID
- Commonwealth of Pennsylvania-issued ID
- U.S. military or Pennsylvania National Guard ID
- Pennsylvania municipal-issued photo ID
- Accredited Pennsylvania college- or university-issued ID
- Pennsylvania nursing/personal-care facility ID
Note that school district employer IDs, Medicare/Medicaid cards, Access cards, Department of Veterans Affairs' cards, and high school IDs WILL NOT be accepted.
In addition, check carefully that:
- The photo ID is current and includes an expiration date. Drivers’ licenses and PennDOT non-driver photo IDs can be expired by one year or less. Military IDs can say expiration date is indefinite
- The name on the photo ID closely matches the name in the voter registry
- If you are a woman who recently married and took your husband’s last name, that the name on your voter registration matches the name on your driver’s license.
Getting a valid photo ID
If you do not have a valid photo ID to vote, you can get a free non-driver photo ID at a PennDOT Driver License Center. You will need to sign an oath that you are a registered voter, and that you do not have a valid photo ID.
Those who have had a Pennsylvania driver’s license or non-driver photo ID at any time since 1990 should be in the computer system, and you will not need to bring any documents. To check, call PennDOT at (800) 932-4600.
If you have never had a state photo ID or are not in PennDOT’s system, you must show an official Social Security card (not a copy), and if you were born in Pennsylvania, either an official birth certificate – it must have a raised seal and cannot be a photocopy or hospital registration form – or a letter from PennDOT verifying your birth record.
For those not born in Pennsylvania, you must present the Social Security card, and your official “raised seal’’ birth certificate from another state, or a valid U.S. passport, certificate of U.S. citizenship, or certificate of naturalization. You will also need two of the following proofs of residency:
A list of PennDOT Driver License Centers can be obtained by calling (800) 932-4600 or visiting www.dmv.state.pa.us/.
Other questions about Voter ID
What happens if you can’t get the required documents to obtain the required photo ID?
The Pennsylvania Department of State has special IDs available for those who can’t afford the cost of a birth certificate, or can’t locate it. Unfortunately, the department was continuing to change the requirements for the special IDs at press time. For the latest information, call (866) OUR-VOTE (687-8683) or visit www.aclupa.org/voterID. PSEA also has information on the Voter ID law at www.psea.org/vote2012.
What happens if I show up at the polls without my ID?
People who show up without the proper photo ID may still vote by provisional ballot. They then have six calendar days to submit the proper ID to their county’s Board of Elections along with an affirmation that the voter is the same person who cast the provisional ballot. These documents may be mailed, faxed, sent electronically, or taken to the county election office.
How do I know if I’m registered to vote?
The law says that if you haven’t voted in one of the past five general elections, you become designated as “inactive.” Your county elections office is then required to send a card to your address on record asking you to confirm that you continue to reside at this residence. If you don’t respond, at some point you will be purged from the system and would have to re-register to vote.
You can confirm your registration by contacting your county Board of Elections or by calling 1-877-VOTESPA. The last day to register for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9.
“The law’s supporters want to make it so hard to vote that many people just give up and stay home on election day,’’ Oleksiak said. “We can’t let them win that way. We must fight this suppression of the right to vote.’’
As Professor Lorraine Minnite, associate professor of public policy at Rutgers-Camden, and one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses before Judge Simpson said:
“You can’t have integrity of an election unless everyone who wants to vote gets their vote counted.”