Mayor Nutter says Philadelphia will help residents get voter ID

Posted: September 13, 2012

Making no secret of his disdain for the state's new voter ID law, Mayor Nutter said Tuesday that local activists have to accept it and get to work helping citizens acquire the credentials they will need to vote in November.

"It's a bad solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist," Nutter told about 80 people at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, a collection of civic groups, churches and other institutions working since last spring to help the public cope with the new law.

"In the meantime, it is the law," Nutter continued. "It is onerous. It does create a number of barriers. . . . We can rail against the law. But that's not going to get people the ID they need in their pockets."

Nutter promised help from city taxpayers providing transportation to citizens who need help getting to PennDot's licensing centers to obtain photo IDs.

Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the city had agreed to let Voter ID Coalition volunteers use the city's account with Zipcar, a car-sharing company, to rent vehicles by the hour to take people to PennDot.

"We expect the cost will be nominal," Abernathy said. The fees will be paid through the managing director's office, which has used car-sharing to reduce the city's fleet.

"The activity is bipartisan," Abernathy said. His boss, Nutter, is a Democrat, while it is largely Republicans who have supported the new voter ID law. "Our only concern is that anybody who wants it has the opportunity to vote."

Nutter sent a letter on Aug. 28 to Gov. Corbett, Secretary of State Carol Aichele, and Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch seeking extended hours and other improvements at PennDot centers to handle people seeking voter ID.

"The citizens most in need of new identification are very likely those who have the least amount of daytime availability and physical mobility, namely workers who do not have flexibility to take the necessary time off during the middle of the workday or seniors who are unable to travel far distances or rely on public transportation," Nutter wrote.

In Philadelphia, the centers' normal hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the Lawndale office at 919-B Levick St. stays open until 5:15 p.m.

Nutter suggested extending PennDot's hours at Philadelphia's five centers to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and at other centers around the state "as needed."

PennDot announced Monday that it would keep its Philadelphia centers open until 7 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 27 through Nov. 8.

Although the general election is Nov. 6, voters without the necessary ID at the polls would be allowed to cast provisional ballots that would be counted if they could produce acceptable ID within six days.

The Voter ID Coalition, comprising about 150 organizations with statewide reach, but strongest in Southeastern Pennsylvania, was organized by the Committee of Seventy to help coordinate public education and other activities around the new law.

Its headquarters are at 310 West Chelten Ave. in Germantown, with a telephone at (215) 848-1283, taking calls from volunteers and people who need help getting to PennDot licensing centers to obtain photo ID for voting.

The Committee of Seventy is also hosting a phone bank, at 1-866-OURVOTE (687-8683) to answer questions about the new voter ID requirements.

Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or

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