Trying to get a handle on how many of Philadelphia voters may need help with the state's new voter-ID requirements, city commission chair Stephanie Singer made arrangements last week for a telephone conversation with the state transportation secretary, Barry J. Schoch.
The subject was to be PennDOT's data on driver's licenses and non-driver photo ID. Singer said she wanted to compare Philadelphia's list of registered voters with PennDOT's lists – to figure out how many people should already have the picture IDs they need to vote next November, and identify those who do not.
Short of obtaining PennDOT's data so she could run the comparison herself, Singer said she wanted to discuss PennDOT's methodology for a similar comparison, now underway, a joint effort by PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of State.
But Singer never got Schoch on the phone.
The day before the scheduled call, Singer said she got a call from Megan Sweeney, an aide to Secretary of State Carol Aichele, telling her that the state did not want her talking to the PennDOT secretary.
"What she told me was, the Department of State was the point agency for all voter ID issues, and I should be talking to them," Singer said. "She told me my call had been cancelled.…I was stunned."
Just protocol, according to a spokesman for the Department of State, Ron Rumin.
"The situation is that the Department of State has been designated by the administration to be the point agency for this issue, and in particular, for dealing with county election officials, including Commissioner Singer," Rumin said.
He said the state expected to complete its database work next week and send county commissioners throughout Pennsylvania a list of registered voters without driver's licenses or non-driver ID.
"That will be helpful," Singer said, but she expressed concern about not having a way to check the accuracy of the state's data. "We want to make sure that when we get something, it will be something we can rely on," she said.