By Carol Aichele
Earlier this year, a Franklin and Marshall College poll reported that 87 percent of Pennsylvanians support showing photo identification before voting. National polls also have consistently shown high approval ratings for voter photo-ID laws. Yet while support is broad and deep among Democrats, Republicans, and independents, attacks continue against Pennsylvania's new law.
When Gov. Corbett signed voter ID, he made clear that the law is intended to help ensure the integrity of every vote. One person, one vote is fundamental to our system. The governor directed state agencies to provide voter IDs to all eligible voters as quickly and simply as possible, while still verifying the voter's identity.
The Departments of Transportation, Health, and State began immediately working on ways to fulfill the directive. On May 23, these agencies announced a process to help Pennsylvania-born voters who never had a Pennsylvania driver's license more quickly and easily obtain an acceptable photo ID for voting.
In order to get a PennDot ID, an individual must show a birth certificate, certificate of U.S. citizenship or naturalization, or a valid U.S. passport, plus a Social Security card and two proofs of residence. These rules were in place long before the voter-ID law was passed.
PennDot, and the departments of Health and State, devised a process for Pennsylvania-born citizens to provide some basic personal and family information, such as birthdate, place of birth, and parents' names, at a PennDot driver's license center. PennDot then transmits this information electronically, but securely, to the Health Department to verify that the individual's birth record is on file.
Once verified, the Health Department sends this information back to PennDot, and the person is notified by letter to come to the driver's license center, with the other needed documents, to get their free photo ID.
This process takes about 10 days, rather than the 10 weeks or more it could take to get a certified birth certificate through the mail, and eliminates the $10 fee.
This new process confirms the voter-ID law's goal of securely verifying the voter's identity, while making it easier to secure an ID.
In April, the administration highlighted PennDOT's policy that citizens with expired driver's licenses need present no proof of ID or residence, since this information was provided when the person received their license. Individuals with expired licenses need only go to a driver's license center, give their name, update their address if needed, to get a free photo ID.
Pennsylvania's voter-ID law does not target the fundamental right of voting. Instead, this law upholds the integrity and weight of every legal vote by helping detect and deter votes cast illegally.
By verifying the identity of each voter, the voter-ID law prevents those not legally entitled to vote from doing so.
By signing this legislation, the governor took a major step toward protecting the votes of all law-abiding citizens.