When H.B. 934 passed through the Pennsylvania General Assembly (House and Senate) earlier this year and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, voting in the commonwealth changed.
The new law requires that for all elections held after Jan. 1 of this year and prior to Sept. 17, local election officials (poll workers) are responsible for carrying out the following two duties:
Ÿ Election officials MUST request every elector show proof of identification; and
Ÿ If a voter votes at a polling place and does not provide proof of identification and will be required to provide proof of identification beginning Sept. 17, election officials MUST provide written information prescribed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
So, for the April 24 Primary Election in Pennsylvania, what does all of this mean?
State officials report a soft roll-out of the new law will be in effect for this month's election, all of which means the Primary Election will serve as kind of a test run for the November General Election. The photo ID requirement is not necessary to vote on April 24, but voters can expect to receive a Voter ID Information Card at the polls if they report to vote without the proper photo ID.
State officials have cautioned counties, which are responsible for the conduct of elections, that even though the changes will not be effective until November, there are provisions of the law that affect poll workers and voters immediately.
Proof of identification requirements for "first time" voters remain in effect for the April 24 Primary Election, which means those voters who are required under the Help America Vote Act and/or the Pennsylvania Election Code to provide proof of identification, will still be required to provide proof of identity in this election.
The law basically requires all voters to present a Photo ID upon going to the polls and before voting. The IDs must be current and contain an expiration date, unless otherwise noted.
Acceptable forms of ID include:
Ÿ Photo IDs issued by the U.S. federal government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including:
Pennsylvania driver's license or non-driver's license photo ID (IDs are valid for voting purposes 12 months past the expiration date).
Valid U.S. Passport (not expired).
U.S. Military ID active duty and retired military (a military or veteran's ID must designate an expiration date or designate that the expiration date is indefinite). Military dependents' ID must contain an expiration date.
Ÿ Employee photo ID issued by federal, state, county or municipal government (not expired).
Ÿ Photo ID cards from an accredited public or private Pennsylvania college or university (not expired).
Ÿ Photo ID cards issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences and personal care homes (not expired).
The state says persons who do not have one of these IDs and require one for voting purposes, may be entitled to get one free of charge at a PennDOT Driver License Center. To find one nearest you and to learn what identification and residency documentation you will need to get a photo ID, or for more information, visit www.VotesPa.com or call 1-877-868-3772. You can also learn how to vote if you have a religious exemption to having your photograph taken.
State officials say no one legally entitled to vote will be denied the right to do so. If you do not have a photo ID or are indigent and unable to obtain one without payment of a fee, you can cast a provisional ballot, and will have six days to provide your photo ID and/or an affirmation to the county elections office to have your ballot count.
Beginning with the General Election on Nov. 6, persons who vote by absentee ballot will be required to provide additional information on their application(s) of an absentee ballot. A voter who has a current Pa. driver's license or PennDOT-issued photo ID card must provide the license number or photo ID number on the application for an absentee ballot. For a voter who does not have a Pa. driver's license or PennDOT-issued photo ID card, the voter must provide the last four digits of his or her Social Security number on the application.
For more information or to have question answered regarding the election law, contact the state Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, (717) 783-2035.