Pennsylvania Voter Identification Law Gets Mixed Reviews
The law will apply to all voters in November's general election.
Beverly Dewhirst didn't bring her driver's license when she showed up to vote Tuesday evening.
"It's in the car," she told poll workers at the Leetsdale municipal building.
Dewhirst, 60, of Leetsdale was told she would need photo ID in November in order to vote in the fall election. For the time being, she didn't have to trek back to the parking lot to get it.
"Today I didn't know they wanted it," she said, adding that she wouldn't have hesitated to fetch it from her car if necessary. "It'd be a pain, but I'd go get it."
Polling places were preparing voters for the presidential contest in November by asking for identification. Come November, all voters—no matter how long they have been voting—must show photo ID, thanks to a new state law.
Gov. Corbett signed legislation in March making Pennsylvania the 16th state with a photo-ID voting requirement aimed at protecting voter rights. Laws passed in many other states will go into effect in 2014, but Pennsylvania's law is rolling out this year.
Democrats have derided the plan as a “Voter Suppression” bill, and they have been joined in protest by civil liberties advocates, the AARP and the NAACP. They say the law is an effort to disenfranchise the young, poor and elderly.
The outcry is not limited to politicians or residents of big cities. In Bucks County, a woman in a wheelchair who has never had a driver's license recently complained that she had trouble getting ID from PennDOT, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Helene Zacharias, judge of election for Ward 2 in Sewickley, said poll workers gave out information throughout the day to voters who didn't have identification.
"It tells them about the new law that was passed by the government," she said.
Zacharias said the required photo identification could include a driver's license or another type of photo ID such as a passport, military card, student or personal care facility card with an expiration date.
First-time voters have always been required to produce identification, but the law will apply to all voters in November's general election, Zacharias said.
"Some people have heard about it. Some are asking questions about it, because they don't really understand," she said.
A Sewickley voter told Patch she recently lost her driver's license and was trying to remember where she might have dropped it. The woman, who didn't want to be identified, said she was grateful she didn't need her license to cast a vote Tuesday.
Locally, Tuesday's voter turnout was low. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that low turnout in the primary is also a statewide concern because voters who skipped Tuesday's election may not learn about the need for their IDs until November.
Lyvonne Wesche, judge of election in Leetsdale, said most of the voters who came in seemed to know about the new voter ID law.
"Most of them have them ready. A few of them had to go out to their cars to get them, but they had them," she said, adding that those voters who came empty-handed volunteered to retrieve their identification. "We just want them to get used to it, so that in November they have it."
Opponents say many seniors receive rides and may not have photo ID. The state is covering the expense for those without valid ID, a program Democrats estimate will cost close to $5 million for a state facing a budget deficit. Those who need to get a birth certificate in order to obtain their license will face out-of-pocket costs and added obstacles, they say.
But voters such as Deon Sheffield, 27, of Leetsdale, said he brought his driver's license with him Tuesday and had no problem showing it to poll workers.
"It's kind of ridiculous to show up and say 'hey this is my name,' and just vote," he said.
Dewhirst said she didn't mind showing hers either.
"I think you should," she said.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 9 a.m. Wednesday.