ON OCT. 2, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked implementation of Pennsylvania's onerous voter-ID law for the Nov. 6 election - and thousands of citizens who care about the right to vote breathed easier.
They shouldn't have: Despite the injunction, the commonwealth is continuing to tell voters, falsely, in both English and Spanish, that they need a photo ID to vote. Or at least it is making insufficient effort to tell voters that the law won't be in full effect on Election Day.
The danger in all this confusion is obvious: If people without photo ID - many of whom are seniors, students and the poor - believe they need it to vote, they will stay home.
Here are the facts:
To vote in Pennsylvania on Nov. 6, you DO NOT need to have a photo ID.
You will be asked to show photo ID at your polling place, but if you do not have one, you still MUST be allowed to vote on a regular voting machine. You do NOT have to vote by provisional ballot.
(The only exception is this: If it is your first time voting at your polling place, you will need ID but you can use a variety of identifications, including the voting card you got when you registered.)
In the five months after the voter-ID law passed in the state Legislature, with only Republican votes, we lost count of how many times the state changed the rules (often without letting employees charged with enforcing them in on the news.) But in barely three weeks since Simpson delayed implementation of the law, the commonwealth has outdone itself in creating even more confusion:
* Weeks after the court decision, television and radio ads saying that voters need photo IDs to vote have continued to air. Various county Web sites have not been changed. More than a week after the decision, incorrect posters and other information were still on display at some PennDOT locations.
* Ads on billboards and the sides of buses that shout "Show It!" with a picture of a driver's license (indicating that voter ID is required) have not been pulled or, better yet, replaced with correct information. Instead, a line has been added that says, "This Election Day, if you have it." In much smaller print. The harder to see it, my dear. Spanish-language billboards say essentially the same thing.
* Last week, the commonwealth's Department of Aging mailed a card to thousands of Pennsylvania seniors who participate in the PACE/PACENET prescription-drug program telling them that "Voters are required to show photo ID on Election Day." * Peco Energy also has disseminated outdated information about voter ID to its customers, but a day after it learned its mistake, it sent out corrections. The commonwealth is making no similar effort.
The American Civil Liberties Union has petitioned Simpson to make the commonwealth tell voters the whole truth about the law. He has not yet responded. If Simpson doesn't act, he will be a party to the disenfranchisement his ruling was supposed to protect against.
In the meantime, spread the word: You do not - repeat, do not - need photo ID to vote on Nov. 6.