Pennsylvania’s voter ID law causes confusion

A voting place sign is taped to a wall at a polling station on Nov. 6, 2012, in Oakmont, Pa.
Credit: Jeff Swensen

Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is confusing voters in the state today, the Allentown Morning Call reported.

A law requiring voters to show photo identification in order to vote was approved by lawmakers in March, but last month a judge postponed its implementation until 2013, Bloomberg News reported. That means no one but first-time voters and people voting at a new precinct after moving needs to show ID in order to cast a ballot.

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Yet, Lehigh Valley’s Express-News reported, a notice on a table inside the polling place at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Pa., headed “ELECTION NEWS, Important Information for You!” proclaimed: “New state laws require all voters who appear in a precinct to provide election officials with proof of identification.”

When notified of the flyer, officials at Northampton County's voter registration and elections office told the judge of elections at that location to remove it, according to the Express-News.

Tom Harp, the county's director of administration, told the Express-News that the notice was old and could have been incorrectly included in the precinct's bag of materials for poll workers.

In Catasauqua, Pa., voters complained that poll workers were asking for ID before they voted, the Morning Call reported. Voter Sean Redding told the Morning Call that a poll worker repeatedly said to him and his wife: "I am required by law to ask you for your ID." Redding refused, explaining that he knew the law, and ultimately he voted without showing ID.

According to the Morning Call:

Lehigh County Election Board Chief Clerk Tim Benyo said poll workers are following instructions from the Pennsylvania Department of State, which instructed poll workers to ask for identification as a test run to see what would happen if there was a voter identification law.

Workers were supposed to ask for identification after voters signed the poll books and not before, Benyo told the Morning Call. But, he added, the state did not control how individual polling centers were run.

Bob Kefauver, chairman of the Democratic Party of York County, told the York Dispatch that local voters had received a mailer this week from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s office stating that photo IDs would be required in order to vote today. "We don't know how widespread the mailing was, but we're working to correct the blatant misinformation," he said.

To stop the confusion, a Pennsylvania judge issued a ruling preventing poll workers at polling place near Pittsburgh from asking for ID, Bloomberg News reported.

“Individuals outside of the polls are prohibited from questioning, obstructing, interrogating or asking about any form of identification and/or demanding any form of identification from any prospective voter,” Judge Guido A. DeAngelis said in a ruling a Democratic Party lawyer provided to Bloomberg News.


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