VOTER ID: what you need to know

Posted: August 16, 2012

Q. What happened in court on Wednesday?

A. Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. of Commonwealth Court declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of Act 18, passed in March, which requires Pennsylvania voters to present a photo-ID at the polls starting with the Nov. 6 election.

Q. Is there a next-step in the court battle?

A. Yes. Voter advocates who believe the law puts an unconstitutional burden on poor people and the displaced intend to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Q. What sort of photo-ID is required?

A. The law is very specific. Voters will need to present one of the following types of identification:

- United States passport.

- Pennsylvania driver's license.

- Voter registration card that contains a photo (new at end of this month).

- College or university identification card.

- Military ID card.

- Employee card issued by a federal, state or local government agency. (School districts don't count.)

- ID card issued by a Pennsylvania care facility such as a nursing home or personal-care home.

Q. What if I don't have any of these?

A. You can apply to PennDot for a free (non-driving) photo-ID. These are available at Driver License Centers. (For locations, call PennDot's customer center at 1-800-932-4600.)

You'll have to fill out an application and present several documents to show "acceptable proof of identification." You'll need a Social Security card, plus a birth certificate or citizenship papers. You'll also need two of the following: tax records, lease agreement, mortgage document, utility bill, handgun permit.

If you qualify, the ID will be issued on the spot.

Q. That's a lot of documents. I'll need to dig deep in the drawer. What if I can't qualify for a PennDot ID?

A. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, is issuing its own ID of last resort.

These are available at the same PennDot center where you go for a PennDot ID. If you are turned down for a PennDot card, you can get the Department of State card. You'll still need to give your name, address and Social Security number, and show two proofs of residence.

Q. What if a voter is homeless?

A. If a voter cannot afford an ID (including, say, the bus fare to a PennDot center), he or she may cast a provisional paper ballot. The voter will have to sign a form saying he or she is indigent.

Q. Let's say I just show up at the polls without an ID - maybe I forgot it - what happens?

A. You will be entitled to cast a provisional ballot. For your vote to count, you'll have present your ID at your county's election office within six days.

Q. Where can I get more information?

A. Try the website VotesPA.com. Or call the Department of State's Voter ID Hotline at 1-877-868-3772.


-- Tom Infield

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