Communications expert: Voter ID law badly publicized

Posted: July 21, 2013

HARRISBURG - The state's campaign to publicize the new voter identification law has been inadequate and often confusing, an expert on political communication testified Friday.

The testimony came at the end of the first week of the widely watched trial of Pennsylvania's voter ID law, which requires people to show certain forms of identification, such as driver's licenses, before they can vote. The law, passed in March 2012, was championed by Republicans as a deterrent to voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups have contended it would result in disenfranchisement of many minority, elderly, or disabled voters who are unable to obtain the proper ID.

Diana Mutz, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and its Annenberg School for Communication, testified that the state's campaign urging voters to "Show It" - meaning identification - when they go to vote was not intuitive or clear.

She also testified that state officials did not use measures that would help determine whether their voter ID education campaign was working or make sure people who needed identification had the information they needed to get it.

She said information from the state was unclear that necessary ID was free or that getting it did not require hard-to-obtain backup documentation such as Social Security cards and birth certificates.

She also said she found the state's voter-ID website difficult to navigate.

The state has argued the opposite. Earlier in the week, Shannon Royer, a deputy secretary who oversees elections, testified that efforts to educate voters about the law far surpassed what other states had done. The state spent roughly $5 million in federal money last year on public outreach and has approved another $2.5 million for this coming fiscal year.

The trial is expected to resume Monday.


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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