Montgomery County proceeds with loophole voter-ID program

Posted: October 03, 2012

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decreed that the state's new voter-ID law required "liberal access" to acceptable identification, Montgomery County commissioners took it literally. Starting Wednesday, a county-run senior care facility will distribute free IDs to any county resident who wants one.

The commissioners detailed Monday what will be required to obtain a "Parkhouse Voter ID Card":

Applicants must affirm that they are U.S. citizens who live and are registered to vote in Montgomery County, and show one document with their name and address, such as a utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck. That's it.

Unlike a driver's license, it won't require a Social Security card or birth certificate. And unlike the Department of State's voter ID, it won't require proof of the voter's registration or an oath that the applicant doesn't have another form of ID.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. has until Tuesday to decide whether to issue an injunction on the voter-ID law. During hearings in the case last week, Simpson indicated that he was considering allowing most of the law to remain intact for the November election and that any injunction would be limited to the part of the law that dealt with provisional ballots.

As written, the law - pushed through the legislature by Republicans and opposed by Democrats at each step - requires voters to present specific photo identification at the polls. If they do not have one, they can cast a provisional ballot and would then have six days to obtain an ID.

Simpson said last week that he could narrowly limit his injunction so that voters would still be asked for photo ID, but that those without the proper identification could vote by provisional ballot for the Nov. 6 election only.

Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor Jr., a Republican, who introduced the county ID program with his two Democratic colleagues, said that the idea wasn't politically motivated and that the Parkhouse card "isn't a ticket to vote."

The county-issued ID proves "that you are the human being who is already registered to vote and signed in the book," Castor said.

"So the decision concerning whether you are an American citizen and eligible to vote has already been made" at registration, he said.

State Department spokesman Ron Ruman said that no form of ID was immune from fraud, but that PennDot's requirements imposed "a lot more hoops you would have to jump through" to steal someone's identity.

The state is not contesting the legality of the operation; the county exploited a clause in the law that would accept for voting purposes IDs issued by state-licensed nursing homes, but did not require that the applicants live there. Allegheny County is issuing IDs through nursing homes and through its community college.

Ruman said officials were concerned about "individuals not directly related to a facility having an ID card."

Commissioners responded that the voter cards don't look like Parkhouse's regular ID cards and will not be equipped to unlock doors or grant improper access to people who don't live at the care facility.

The entire ID-card effort is expected to cost less than $5,000. Parkhouse has enough staff to cover 60 distribution events leading up to Nov. 6, said Democratic Commissioner Leslie Richards.

Distributions will be held countywide, on evenings and weekends, and in some cases coinciding with flu-shot clinics. A full calendar is posted at montcopa.org.


Contact Jessica Parks

at 215-854-4851 or jparks@philly.com.

Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis contributed to this article.

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