As an alternative, registered voters having difficulty obtaining a PennDOT ID have been offered a newly-created Voter ID, developed by the Department of State and issued through PennDOT Driver's License Centers. But the new Voter ID is proving no easier to obtain.
In response to complaints, and pressure from voter's advocacy groups, last week the Department of State finally released their anticipated "safety net" Voter ID, reassuring the public that this new Voter ID will ensure that no registered, eligible voter is turned away from the polls. But even leaving aside the voters that will not have heard about the strict new requirements until they walk into their precinct's polling place, where they have voted under the same procedures as long as they have been voting, those who are getting the word in time are discovering that by design, the so-called streamlined ID is no easier to get than the PennDOT ID. That's because the State wants you to take the long way around, applying for the PennDOT ID first.
Officials at PennDOT, working with the Department of State, have declared the PennDOT ID, although harder to obtain, "a better product" than the Voter ID, because "it can be used for multiple purposes," whereas the Voter ID can only be used for, well, voting.
So voters, anxious to meet the new ID requirements in time to be heard in this national election; voters who by definition don't drive and have apparently not been in urgent need of current, official, government-issued photo identification; voters who don't drive, fly, purchase alcohol, or rent cars; voters who just want to vote, are being told that while the PennDOT ID is not easy to obtain, if, for example, they don't have "the birth certificate with a raised seal (and) will need to visit a driver license center twice," the extra steps will pay off, because "they will receive a product that can be used for many day to day identification needs."
PennDOT, the only agency providing the Voter ID, is therefore requiring every applicant to apply first for a PennDOT ID. "PennDOT wants to make every effort to issue this product first," as "the Voter ID will be valid for voting purposes only." If unable to meet the documentation requirements for the PennDOT ID after two trips and signing a written oath that the documents cannot be located, a voter can provide whatever documentation they do have and will be at last issued a Voter ID.
Right now, for voters discovering barriers between themselves and their ballot, the one thing they're looking for is identification "for voting purposes only."
Starting November 6th, all voters must present a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. These include: a PennDOT driver's license or non-driver ID, passport, military ID, government employee ID, student ID (if it displays an expiration date), or a photo ID from a Pennsylvania care facility.
If a voter does not possess a raised-seal copy of their birth certificate, they'll need to go to a PennDOT DL Center and do the following:
- sign an oath saying they do not have an official birth certificate
- fill out an application for a "Certification of a Birth Record for Voter ID Purposes Only"
- show their Social Security card and 2 proofs of residence
- fill out an application for a PennDOT non-driver's photo ID
The voter must then wait up to ten days for letter from the Health Department and return to the PennDOT DL Center with the letter. If the letter verifies the birth records, the voter can get a PennDOT ID on this second trip.
Some voters - especially among the elderly - have received letters from the health department stating their birth records can not be located. Other voters, born in another state or country, can't locate birth records or have to pay a fee. Students voters have learned that their student ID cards must bear an expiration date to be considered suitable. If their school's card does not, and their driver's license is from out-of-state, they can apply for a PennDOT ID, but they must first relinquish their out-of-state ID, sign a written oath that they don't have other acceptable ID, and through the same documentation procedures AS it gets closer to election day, there will be voters who don't find out about the new requirement in time to allow for two trips to a PennDOT center and a ten day wait on documents.
A Would-Be Solution, With a Catch
Voter groups plan to continue to push for procedures that will ensure every registered voter can vote November 6th.