Outreach and outrage continue over voter ID law

The Pennsylvania Department of State “is” trying to implement the new voter ID law.

We caught up with Secretary Carol Aichele in Gettysburg talking at a Department of Aging convention about the new voting rules and how they'll effect seniors.

“We want all 8.2 million registered voters in Pennsylvania to vote in November,” Aichele said with a straight face and a genuine smile. “We are leaving no stone unturned in Pennsylvania to make sure we get the message out.”

The message is actually very simple. You need proper photo ID before you're given access to the ballot box.

Implementing that simple message is more complex. The federal government is giving the state $5 million for outreach.

Harrisburg's Bravo Group is getting $260,000 dollars of it to spread the word about types of identification that are required and where to get them. They're taking a grassroots approach with pamphlets and brochures at fairs and churches, senior centers and schools.

“It's very labor intensive,” said Sean Connolly of the Bravo Group. “We have people traveling all around the state, to meet with community groups in their neighborhoods. We're taking the message to them.”

But is the message being heard? PennDOT recently reported that nine percent of registered voters, 759,000 Pennsylvanians, don't have a PennDOT-issued photo ID. Aichele says other ID's that have expiration dates are permissible, such as passports, military ID's and student ID's, and PennDOT doesn't track those. She also says clerical errors wildly inflated their figures.

“In my opinion, the number will be far less once we sort it out,” she said.

Critics don't buy it and they point to original estimates from the bill's proponents that said only one percent of voters, 80,000 Pennsylvanians, don't have proper ID.

“After it's now passed, all of a sudden we're hearing the 'whoops' factor,” said Barry Kauffman of Common Cause Pa. “Geez, it's not really 80,000, it's now three-quarters of a million people known not to have PennDOT-issued ID, maybe more.”

Voter ID was sold as a law and order bill that would reduce voter fraud, but House Republican leader Mike Turzai suggested political motives while speaking to a GOP gathering in Hershey last month.

“A voter ID law to help Governor Romney win Pennsylvania – done,” Turzai declared.

“In politics the definition of a faux pas is when an elected official accidentally tells the truth,” Kauffman said. “Turzai told the truth. The purpose of this law was to disenfranchise people who may not vote for his party.”

But there's another truth: polls have found Pennsylvanians support the concept of a voter ID law by an overwhelming 2-1 margin.

And the Department of State is trying to make it work – for everybody.

“No one will be disenfranchised in Pennsylvania,” Aichele insisted. “No one.”

Groups including the ACLU are suing to block the voter ID law. Commonwealth Court will take it up July 25.

If you have questions about what ID you need and where to get it, visit www.votespa.com.

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