Annette John-Hall: A retired CEO can't top voter ID hurdles

Anthony DeCarlo of Berwyn , a recently retired CEO, got the runaround over minor discrepancies in his name on his voter-registration card, passport, and driver's license. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Anthony DeCarlo of Berwyn , a recently retired CEO, got the runaround over minor discrepancies in his name on his voter-registration card, passport, and driver's license. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 26, 2012

Fellow voters, it's crunch time. With about a month left until the election, Pennsylvania still hasn't resolved whether its restrictive voter ID law stays or goes.

That will be up to Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr., who begins hearing arguments Tuesday and has until next Tuesday to rule whether the law will stay in place for the Nov. 6 elections.

This after the state Supreme Court ordered Simpson to determine if the commonwealth has provided "liberal access" to a card for every voter who needs it, and if the law disenfranchises even one voter.

It was an appeal of Simpson's original ruling, which found that there was no undue burden placed on citizens to obtain an ID, that pushed the law to the Supreme Court in the first place.

If you've watched how this sham and shame of a law has played out over the last six months, I think you already can see how suppressive it is.

Look, I'm not advocating fly-by-night irresponsibility. I believe we should all have proper identification. I'm guessing that such commonsense thinking is what prompted almost two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters to support voter ID on its face in a recent poll.

But what's really dangerous is when practical legislation is really just a political dirty trick to enact one of the harshest laws in the nation, intended to suppress votes under the guise of combating fraud that doesn't exist. The law has been nothing more than a fluctuating set of rules and loopholes that amount to an exhaustive scavenger hunt.

And to show how brazen the Corbett gang is, the voter ID commercial now airing accuses folks of somehow being un-American if they can't or don't know how to comply.

You've no doubt seen the recent ads that are more offensive than informational: "If you care about this election, if you want a voice, if you want a vote ... if you care about this country, it's time to show it."

Well, Anthony DeCarlo thought he wouldn't have a problem showing it - that is, before he received a letter from Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele informing him that, just maybe, he would.

DeCarlo, 72, is the recently retired CEO of a billion-dollar suburban company, which he doesn't want to name because of the unwarranted attention it may receive. The only reason I mention it is to illustrate that even folks you wouldn't even think would have a problem, those who you'd think would have all of their documentation, could get caught in the voter ID web.

Did I mention that DeCarlo has been a registered voter for 50 years?

He originally tossed out the Aichele letter, thinking it didn't apply to him, but he was later notified by a committeewoman that he might have a problem because the name on the voting rolls didn't match his driver's license.

In impeccable penmanship, DeCarlo described, in a lengthy letter to me, his painstaking attempt to navigate a maze of bureaucracy filled with ill-informed employees and disingenuous legislators.

Last week, DeCarlo went to a PennDot office in Fraser, near his Berwyn home, to ensure that the name on his voter registration card (Anthony J. DeCarlo) and passport (Anthony Joseph DeCarlo Sr.) matched the name on his driver's license (Anthony DeCarlo).

I'll let him tell it in his own words:

The DMV clerk suggested he would change my driver's license to conform to the voter registration. ... I completed a form and was asked to pay $13.50 by money order. They don't accept cash or cards. He said there was a store nearby where I could buy a money order. ...

When I returned to complete the transaction, I was told by this same clerk that he made an error. His supervisor told him my driver's license would have to conform to my passport, since that is proof of citizenship. This wouldn't solve my problem in conforming the driver's license with the voter registration name. ...

I decided I had enough of the bureaucratic shuffle, so I took my documents and went home.

Still determined to know his voting status, DeCarlo then called his state rep, Duane Milne, and senator, Edwin Erickson, both Republicans.

A Milne staff member told DeCarlo that the office had received so many complaints that "the representative realizes he made a mistake and wishes he could take his vote back."

I called Milne to confirm this telling disclosure, but he didn't call me back.

Anyway, aides in both offices assured DeCarlo he wouldn't have a problem because of a directive issued by Aichele that gave examples of names that were "substantially the same." DeCarlo asked for a copy of the directive to take to the polls, just to make sure.

I'm guessing if most voters heard of DeCarlo's experiences they might have answered pollsters differently.

DeCarlo added:

While at the DMV office, I saw a man with no legs waiting in a wheelchair. I doubt he was seeking to renew his driver's license. I saw two elderly women in walkers being aided by their daughters. ...

If registering to vote is this difficult, there is no way all who need to get a voter ID will be accommodated in time for the election.

This law is the real voter fraud.

It was signed:  

Anthony J. DeCarlo

Anthony DeCarlo

Anthony Joseph DeCarlo Sr.


Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-853-4986, Ajohnhall@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Annettejh.

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