HARRISBURG - The details aren't final yet. But Pennsylvania election officials will soon unveil a photo-identification card intended to make it easier for voters to comply with the state's new voter-ID law.
The card is to be formally announced in the next few weeks and will be issued by the Department of State, which oversees elections.
The sole purpose of the new ID, which will be made available at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation centers across the state: to help voters who have thus far been unable to get the types of identification the new law requires in order to vote in the fall election.
Critics of the law have complained that some residents without driver's licenses have had difficulties collecting the various documents needed to obtain the nondriver ID cards that PennDot is issuing for free.
"If you can't meet the PennDot requirements for a non-driving ID because you are having trouble getting the necessary documentation together, there will be a way for you to obtain the Department of State ID for voting purposes only," Department of State spokesman Nick Winkler said Thursday.
PennDot requires Pennsylvania residents seeking a nondriver ID to provide a Social Security card; a birth certificate with a raised seal; a certificate of U.S. citizenship or naturalization, or a valid passport; and proof of residency, such as tax records, lease or mortgage documents, a firearms permit, or utility bills.
Winkler would not elaborate on specifics of the new cards, or describe what the lesser requirements might be for obtaining one. He said the details were being worked out.
The planned card is unlikely to silence some of the concerns raised by various critics of the voter-ID law. For example, the state will still require a voter who wants a new ID card to travel to a PennDot photo and licensing center, a trip that they contend may be unduly burdensome for people who are elderly or have physical disabilities - especially if they live miles from the nearest PennDot center.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has argued that such transportation difficulties were only compounded by restricted PennDot facility hours and potential travel expense.
The ACLU and several other groups have sued the state in Commonwealth Court, arguing that the voter-ID law violates the Pennsylvania constitution because it "unduly burdens the right to vote."
Lawyers for the state contend that the law will protect honest voters' rights by curbing election fraud and that it is well within the legislature's authority to regulate elections.
Hearings in the case are set to begin Wednesday and expected to last from five to seven days.