State aides testify in voter ID lawsuit

Posted: July 26, 2013

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania agencies made extensive efforts to revamp procedures and disseminate information about the new voter identification law after its passage in March 2012, state officials said in court Wednesday.

But they acknowledged that mistakes were made as the state scrambled to ease the requirements to obtain an ID for voting when it became apparent that many people would have difficulty providing documentation needed for a Department of Transportation-issued license.

Officials with the Department of Aging and PennDot testified before Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley as the state began presenting its case in the trial over the voter ID law, now in its second week.

Kelly O'Donnell, operations and management director at the Department of Aging, acknowledged under questioning by plaintiffs' attorneys that she had sent inaccurate information about where individuals could get a photo ID.

She said she was wrong when she told county aging agencies that clients could get photo ID at all PennDot photo centers, when they could only get them on days when the PennDot driver's license centers were open.

E-mails presented as evidence by the plaintiffs also showed inaccurate information released over the availability of transportation to driver's license centers and accommodations by PennDot to handle large groups of elderly traveling together by bus.

In one case, an e-mail from a county official in Potter County told the Department of Aging that an ID would be needed to get the reduced fares from the bus company to ride to the PennDot center to get IDs for voting.

"That's a Catch-22, isn't it?" said plaintiffs' attorney Marian Schneider of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group.

Earlier, O'Donnell said her agency had received no calls from elderly voters with complaints about the law and had reached out to as many as 750,000 seniors with mailings explaining it.

Kurt Myers, PennDot deputy secretary in charge of driver's licensing centers, testified that his agency, through its call centers, website, and license centers, tried to address changes made for the ID requirements.

"There were times when misinformation was sent out, but it got corrected," said Myers, who said the process had "evolved over time."

The state on Thursday is expected to call Jonathan Marks, who heads the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation and a statistician whose research counters the plaintiffs' data on numbers of voters affected by the law.


Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.

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