To the Carbon County CommissionersL
I am fully aware that the PennDOT center on Route 443 in Mahoning Township is a state agency, not a county responsibility. Nonetheless, I am writing to you as members of the Election Board in hopes that you may be able to exert some pressure to improve the procedures for obtaining a picture ID required to vote this coming November.
758,000 Pennsylvanians lack ID required to vote, according to an article I read. On Friday, July 6, I took one of those 758,000 to get his ID. It did not go well.
Paul and I arrived at the Lehighton PennDOT license center at 1:15 p.m. My friend took a number from the dispenser. It was number 20. The person being served was number 59. We had to go to number 100, then start at number 1. I had told my friend to bring a book and I had mine, but time still drags.
The room was full of bored and irritated people, including crying children. None of the chairs had arms, so the seniors had trouble getting out of their seats had to be helped. The crowd in that waiting room was of all genders, races and classes, but we were united in our disgust at the way Pennsylvania treats its citizens who need DMV documents or help.
At 2:45 p.m. my friend was called up. He had his Palmerton library card, two utility bills in his name, and his original birth document provided by the Palmerton Hospital, which his mother had given him. Not good enough. To get an ID card, you need a birth certificate with a raised seal. I had tried to call the DMV before we went to see if his documentation was adequate, but all you could get was a menu of recordings. No human even answers.
When I asked the clerk why this information wasn't posted, she informed me it was. It was in a rack of documents on the wall as you came in. Not exactly easy to find.
To get a birth certificate with a raised seal, it requires an application that costs $10. Rep. Heffley's office is kind enough to provide and send in the form, but they, like the DMV, do not accept cash, which means we have to go back on Monday with a check.
When the birth certificate arrives, we will need to back to the license center, probably for another two hour wait. Keep in mind there are two lines - the line to apply and the line to get the picture. Also keep in mind that people without picture IDs will almost always require a driver, which means that two people are tied up for half a day.
My friend Paul has voted for years. He is not a criminal. He is not pulling a fast one. All he wants to do is vote. I am willing to put in another day of driving him to the DMV, but I can tell you this, anyone who says this is free or this is easy has not undergone this procedure.
By the way, while I hope Paul is a Democrat, I have never asked him how he votes or is registered. For all I know he is a registered Republican. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue about making sure that Pennsylvania citizens have a reasonable opportunity to vote.
I have a number of suggestions on how to expedite the process:
1. Post the requirements on the wall on a large print sign.
2. Have the application for the birth certificate available at the license center.
3. Buy some chairs with arms.
4. Get some toys for the children.
5. Allow food in the room.
6. Allow people who have proper documentation to enter an express lane.
I could make some other suggestions on how to improve service overall, but right now I am concerned about the picture ID requirement.
As I noted at the beginning of this letter, I know the license center is operated by the state, but something needs to be done. As we get closer to the election, there will be many people requesting these IDs. I understand it takes weeks just to get the birth certificate from Vital Records. Thousands of people - the young, the old, the people who don't drive - are going to be denied a fundamental American right to vote if this situation is not improved.