It’s no longer enough to simply register to vote in Pennsylvania. Starting this year, the state says a voter ID law is necessary to protect the integrity of Election Day.
Under Pennsylvania’s four-month-old voter identification law, people now have to show state-approved forms of ID — a driver’s license, a student ID card with an expiration date or a passport, for example.
But the effort to prevent fraud at the polls seems to just be making things more complicated, and we’re worried that the existence of this new law, period, could deter potential voters from lining up at the voting booth simply to avoid any possible scrutiny.
While this might seem to pose no challenge to some of us, the reality is that many Pennsylvanians lack a sufficient form of ID. The attorneys challenging the law in court right now say this is the case for about 12 percent of the state’s registered voters, according to the AP.
When the state says it can’t point to specific figures on the prevalence of voting fraud, we’re skeptical that it’s really going to do more than create obstacles. That skepticism is further inflated when you consider that the added effort and money needed to obtain an ID seems to make things especially complicated for several specific voting blocs, like college students, immigrants and lower-income individuals.
The state recently said that starting Aug. 28, people who would otherwise have trouble getting a PennDOT ID can apply for a new state voter ID card, with presentation of two proofs of residency and a social security number.
That’s a step, but it’s also something the state needs to advertise more heavily — along with other clarifications of what is and isn’t acceptable as ID.
Officials overseeing the voter ID law should be partnering with universities to make sure students know what counts at the polls. They should also publicize votespa.com and 1-877-VOTESPA at every opportunity — at bus stops, on highway signs and other high-visibility spots — to show people how to find answers to their voter ID questions.
If the real goal is to protect the value of votes, the state’s top priority should be making sure it doesn’t disenfranchise any potential legitimate voters.
And with 98 days until Election Day, the clock’s ticking to fill in the gaps.