Oldest in Pa. to get voter IDs

The state set up a new plan after its computers didn't permit the age of a 105-year-old woman.

Posted: September 02, 2012

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Friday it had established a new procedure for the very oldest state residents to obtain the newly required voter ID after its computer system would not recognize the age of a 105-year-old woman.

PennDot spokeswoman Jan McKnight said supervisors would inform staff about the new process, developed two days after Alice Carlson ran into trouble getting identification because of her age.

Carlson showed up Wednesday at a PennDot licensing center in Snydersville, about 25 miles north of Easton, but the computer would not recognize an age above 104, the Pocono Record reported. Instead, it wanted to record her as being 6 years old.

"I guess they don't really expect 105-year-old folks to come in for an ID," said State Rep. Mario Scavello (R., Monroe), who accompanied Carlson to get the photo ID, which will be mandatory for voters in Pennsylvania starting with the Nov. 6 election.

Scavello, a supporter of the voter-ID law, has offered to drive anyone who needs one to the licensing center. So far, about six people have taken him up on it.

After an hour and a half, PennDot used a work-around to produce an official ID for Carlson, a lifelong Democrat who first voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Reached at her home in Canadensis on Friday, Carlson declined to comment.

The Pocono Record described her as a former employee of the New York City schools who moved to the Poconos, her longtime vacation spot, after the death of her husband.

The newspaper said Carlson appeared annoyed as she had to wait while supervisors worked out a way to get her the required identification, and when reporters - alerted by Scavello - surrounded her outside.

"I am going to hit somebody," she told reporters.

Afterward, Scavello bought her lunch at a restaurant in nearby Tannersville.

"What a bright lady, I'll tell you," Scavello said. "She's one in a million."

McKnight said PennDot would use a paper-based process for voters 105 and older, at least until it can figure out how to fix the computer system code so it will permit ages above 104.

Pennsylvania's voter-ID law, passed by Republicans without Democratic support and signed by Republican Gov. Corbett, has been upheld by a state appeals court, but that ruling will be the subject of a Sept. 13 state Supreme Court hearing in Philadelphia.

Supporters say the law is needed to combat voter fraud, but opponents counter that examples of fraud are rare or nonexistent and that the law's real aim is to suppress votes by groups that lean Democratic, such as the poor and young people. Courts are reviewing similar laws in other states ahead of the presidential election.

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