Still paying a fee for free voter IDs

Posted: March 28, 2012

WHEN Stephen Branch visited the state driver's license center on Ogontz Avenue last week with his birth certificate and Social Security card, a clerk told him he'd have to pay $13.50 for what's supposed to be a free voter-ID card.

"I showed him my papers and [the Daily News] article about free IDs, but he wouldn't listen," Branch said.

He's one of several voters who have complained about inconsistencies with the controversial new voter-ID law.

Under the law, passed March 14, the fee usually associated with getting a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation photo ID is waived if the applicant has no other identification and is getting it to vote.

At least that's what's supposed to happen.

"This is a whole new law, and some people are going to be confused," said Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, vice president of the Committee of Seventy government-watchdog group. "The last people that should be confused, however, are the ones that are handing out the photo IDs."

At the committee's weekly meeting Tuesday, Kaplan was overwhelmed with stories about voters' being charged for their supposedly free photo IDs.

But Jan McKnight, community-relations coordinator for PennDOT's Safety Administration, said that her office hadn't received any complaints about voters' being charged, and promised that all PennDOT employees are "trained to know what to do."

"I think the problem is that word got out that IDs are free for just walking in," she said. "Voters still have to sign an oath saying they have no government ID and prove who they are."

Contact Vinny Vella at 215-854-5926 or

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