In a less-imperfect world, Tuesday's primary would be a dry run for the debut of Pennsylvania's voter-identification requirements, a chance for election officials throughout the state to gauge the law's impact and make appropriate adjustments before the presidential contest in November.

But the voter-ID legislation was passed so close to the primary - Gov. Corbett signed it into law on March 14, and state officials were still tinkering with ID possibilities last week - that Tuesday's election will be like holding a dress rehearsal while the writer is still working on the script.

The Corbett administration describes the primary as a "soft rollout" for the requirement that every voter must present an approved form of photo ID. All voters Tuesday will be asked for identification, but they will be allowed to vote regardless, as long as they have voted previously in the same precinct or division. (New voters in any precinct always have to bring ID.)

Those without acceptable documents will be given a handout describing identification that will be required to vote in November.

Election authorities in Southeastern Pennsylvania are not geared up to take names and addresses of voters who may want help acquiring a photo ID. Throughout most of the region, they won't even be keeping count.

Before the voter-ID bill cleared the legislature, Philadelphia election officials had already completed training for more than half the 7,000 or so people who staff the city's 1,687 polling places. There wasn't time or money to change course.

"If we had six months' lead time, we would have had time to revamp our training for poll workers and implement a real soft rollout, to implement it well," said Stephanie Singer, chairwoman of Philadelphia's city commissioners, who oversee elections.

"The big question is, why did they pass the law and make it apply to an election that was six weeks away?" Singer, a Democrat, asked. "The reasonable thing would have been to do a soft rollout in the November election and full implementation next spring."

In the city and the suburbs, only two counties - Bucks and Montgomery - reported they would be asking election officials to count how many voters were unable to present acceptable ID on Tuesday. (Chester County election chief James L. Forsythe did not return calls for comment.)

"The majority of our poll workers receive their training this weekend," Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards said. "We are requesting that they keep track of the number of people coming in to vote who don't have the required ID. . . . They have a lot of responsibilities and we're not sure how exact a count we're going to get. But it will give us some idea of the challenges we'll be facing in November."

Weak turnout for the primary is a statewide concern. With few primary races captivating the public, many voters may skip Tuesday's election and wait until the presidential contest in November to test the validity of their IDs.

The bulk of voters, those with Pennsylvania driver's licenses, will have no problem. For voting purposes, in-state driver's licenses will be valid up to a year after they have expired. But for non-drivers and people with driver's licenses issued by other states, the ID requirements may be more problematic.

Republican lawmakers in the state House and Senate used their control of both chambers to establish the voter-ID requirement over angry Democratic opposition.

The Democrats alleged it was an effort to disenfranchise elderly, poor, and younger voters just in time to affect the presidential election. All three groups are considered less likely to carry Pennsylvania driver's licenses.

Other acceptable forms of ID are current U.S. passports, U.S. military credentials, photo IDs issued to government employees, and photo IDs issued by Pennsylvania colleges and "care facilities" - as long as the ID cards bear expiration dates and have not expired.

Though state election officials have been busy issuing directives and advisories to clarify the legislature's 22-page bill, ultimately the rules will have to be applied by the judges of elections at thousands of polling places throughout the state.

"One of the items on the short list is photo ID from a licensed care facility," said Singer, Philadelphia's top election official.

"Maybe you know what that means; a lot of people don't," Singer said. "So every judge of elections will need to have access to a list of which facilities are licensed by the state."

That list is long and it changes, she said.

Student IDs are another problem. A survey by the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group looked at IDs issued by 110 colleges and universities and found only 19 appeared to meet the new standards. Most of them lack the expiration dates the law requires.

John Jordan, director of civic engagement for the Pennsylvania NAACP, said the group was working with the American Civil Liberties Union on a lawsuit, hoping to block implementation of the new law before November.

Simultaneously, the NAACP is working with religious leaders in the Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh areas, organizing a series of "Registration Sundays" through September to boost voter rolls and educate voters about what identification they will need.

"We were in total opposition to the bill, and we are in total opposition to the law," Jordan said. "But now that it is the law, we will have teams of volunteers in the street Tuesday to pass out literature on what is required for November."

The NAACP and ACLU are part of a broad-based Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition organized by the Committee of Seventy in hopes of easing the impact of the new law through public education.

"We've got roughly 75 groups that will be out on the street in the city, delivering fliers and wearing buttons, indicating they can answer questions about voter ID," said Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy, a political watchdog.

On a small scale, some Democratic Party leaders are trying to offer assistance through the election structure itself.

Marcia Wilkof, Democratic leader in the 30th Ward, said she was asking election judges in her Southwest Center City ward to have a sign-up sheet for voters who want help obtaining ID.

"We have no idea if people will sign it," Wilkof said. "We don't know what voter turnout will be. But I really want to help the people in my ward, to make sure they can vote in November."

Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.