Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State claimed last week that it would implement a “simplified method to obtain photo ID for Pennsylvania-born voters,” but observers in the state are expressing skepticism about how easy the process will be. Pennsylvania passed a strict photo ID law earlier this year that requires individuals to bring ID with them to the polls before they will be allowed to vote. Previously, individuals had to obtain a copy of their birth certificate before they could obtain a non-driver photo ID card. The Secretary of State’s office describes the new system in the following way:
Individuals must visit a PennDOT drivers license center and submit the necessary information. The information will then be forwarded to the Department of Health, which maintains birth records.
Once it is verified that the individual's birth record is on file, applicants will be notified by mail when to pick up the non-driver photo ID card for voting purposes. The process, which is free, is expected to take about 10 days.
Although the change would eliminate the need to obtain a birth certificate for some voters, it still preserves hurdles that will make it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to vote. For example:
- It only applies to Pennsylvanians who were born in the state, which means that other Pennsylvanians will have to retrieve records from out-of-state.
- Despite eliminating the need for some Pennsylvanians to make a trip to pick up a birth certificate, they must now take an extra trip to PennDOT to pick up IDs after the Department of Health confirms the existence of their birth records.
- It creates a maze of contradictory document requirements that the Bob Warner describes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
To put the process in motion, the individual will have to make a preliminary visit to the same driver's license center, armed with other pieces of identification - a Social Security card (absolutely required for all applicants) and at least two proofs of residency, such as utility bills, lease agreements, mortgage documents, or tax records showing a current address.
Misplace your Social Security card? Here's how to get a new one: Provide the Social Security Administration with a certified copy of your driver's license (if you had one, you probably wouldn't be in the market for a nondriver ID), a state-issued nondriver ID (the thing you need your Social Security card to obtain) or your U.S. passport (if you had one of those, you could vote in November without needing to worry about any of this).
The ACLU, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 Pennsylvanians whose voting rights are threatened by the law, stated that the changes would not affect the plaintiffs. The Inquirer editorial board referred to the changes as “putting lipstick on a pig.” Considering the lack of any evidence that the bill was necessary in the first place and the considerable evidence of its partisan nature that might be a bit unfair to pigs.