Stu Bykofsky: Picture this: You can vote without photo ID

Posted: April 16, 2012

NOW THAT the hysteria has subsided about Pennsylvania voters having to produce photo ID at the polls, here's something maybe you didn't know:

When you join the (minority of) registered voters who take the trouble to vote Tuesday, April 24, you can do so without picture ID.

However, to vote in the biggie November presidential election, you will need photo ID, even if you have voted for decades, in every single election, as I have.

It won't be a problem for me, and most of you, because about 90 percent of Pennsylvanians have photo ID.

But how about the ones who don't, cry the Democrats? You know - the minorities, the poor, the elderly, the incontinent? You know, our base!

Truth is, if they don't already have photo ID, they're so out of the mainstream it's hard to believe they do vote. Truth is, too, Republicans across the country have been pushing voter ID because they think it may suppress Democratic votes. And it may.

So what should the Democrats' response be: Cry like little girls with skinned knees? Or round up the unfortunates and get them photo IDs (also handy in case they want to buy cigarettes or airline tickets, or to cash checks)?

Predictably, lawsuits have been filed by the ACLU and the NAACP to overturn the law.

Less predictably, the perceived attack on voters' rights has jacked up interest in voting, Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy, tells me.

After voter ID was signed by Gov. Corbett last month, panicked partisans started calling Seventy to ask what to do. Seventy had opposed voter-ID legislation, but now is providing a nonpartisan template to help people learn, and conform with, the new rules.

To sum up, in November, among photo IDs that the state will accept are unexpired U.S. passports, Pennsylvania driver's licenses, photo IDs issued by PennDOT, unexpired photo IDs issued to government employees, unexpired photo IDs issued by Pennsylvania care facilities such as assisted living, plus photo IDs issued by armed forces.

There are others, but the law created too many questions to be answered here. Information is available at 866-687-8683, or by going to www.VotesPA.com.

In the wake of the law's enactment, here comes the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, which has more than 60 groups convened by the Committee of Seventy. Its member organizations range from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association to the University City Republican Committee to X-Offenders for Community Empowerment. That's amazingly diverse.

The coalition has two goals: 1) Help people learn the law, and 2) Help voters get photo IDs so that they will not be disenfranchised.

The coalition has begun doing both. With any luck, by November, everyone who needs photo ID will have it.

With that said, voter turnout is a national embarrassment. The highest turnout for a federal election in the last 50 years was in 1960, when 63.1 percent of eligible voters bothered. That was John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon. The exciting Barack Obama vs. John McCain 2008 contest netted 56.8 percent. Turnout in Philadelphia generally runs below national figures.

It's appalling to admit that more Americans line up for the lottery than to vote. Maybe polling-place registrars ought to offer Powerball tickets.


Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns:

philly.com/Byko.

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