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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.

 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 , 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, . 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 , 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. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is preparing for a legal challenge to the newly passed law. The group says on its website that they are currently looking for plaintiffs. 

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.

Dave Sprecher April 25, 2012 at 07:26 AM
Gov. Corbett is cutting money to pa state schools and many essential services. Instead he is wasting millions on new unneeded rules like this. I've voted in the same place for 30 years and everyone knows me, yet If I forget or for some reason don't have ID, I can't vote. Non sense. The sooner he is gone from office the better.
Paul April 25, 2012 at 12:04 PM
As someone who until 2006 lived in several city of Pittsburgh wards and witnessed first hand numerous incidents of blatant voter fraud that were not only ignored but encouraged by the city's Democrat political machine this requirement is a long over due blessing.
Boyerwedum April 25, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Voting is both a right and a duty of every citizen. We as a nation take it too lightly and yet the results determine our future. I suppose you go into stores without your wallet. What do you do when you suddenly realize you've forgotten it? I bet they don't let you walk out with those groceries.
durf April 27, 2012 at 07:34 PM
So is the state going to Pay for the individual to get a photo ID? So no photo ID no vote? No problem....the DMV must be hurting for money now too....Just make a law that every person "MUST" have a photo ID and get it over with...I will make sure my 86 year old grandmother who doesnt drive gets a Valid ID.....
mick mckendry April 30, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Durf, did you see the report where a Caucasian-American walked into a DC polling place and told the election workers he was Eric Holder? You know, the current Afro-American US Attorney General? No? Look it up. The election workers handed a ballot to the imposter. If there is any citizen out there in need of a ride to obtain a photo ID, ask your local liberal democrat to take you there. Instead of liberals whining about this, help people. It is the libs and democrats doing the complaining about this. I don't see any of them offering to help their constituents obtain ID. They would rather see them used as a political tool, another "victim" of "oppression".
durf May 01, 2012 at 01:16 PM
As a republican I appreciate your comment but am not sure if you are implying that i am a democrat who is complaining or what.. My arguement is that the ID costs money. So why dont they just make a new tax, called "You turned 18 and can vote tax, now pay to get an ID". I do feel that everyone should have an ID and that they are important but i am sure there are other ways people can get them. Or, make it free..that when you turn 18 you are given a photo id, now you can vote and buy smokes...I just don't like the government making a law about requiring you to have something that you need to pay the government for.

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