by Karen Stokes
While there has been much debate over the new Voter ID law in Pennsylvania, the fact remains that it is now the law.
We should begin to work together to ensure that all voters know what is required under the new law. If a voter needs an ID, it is not difficult to obtain one and it is free.
The Pennsylvania Department of State has been working with community organizations across the state to reach voters and inform them of the requirements under the new law. The Department of State will advertise on TV, radio, and in newspapers to inform voters of the types of ID that will be accepted at the ballot boxes in November. The Department of State and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) are ready to work with eligible voters, no matter their circumstances, to help them obtain a proper voting ID.
There are several forms of photo ID with expiration dates that will be accepted at the polls, including:
Pennsylvania driver’s license or a PennDOT non-driver’s license (these IDs are valid for voting purposes 12 months past their expiration date)
Valid U.S. passport
U.S. Military ID—active duty and retired
Employee photo ID issued by federal, state, county or municipal government
Photo ID from an accredited public or private Pennsylvania college or university
Photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences or personal care homes
In the African-American community, there are concerns about older residents, many of whom were not born in Pennsylvania and do not have birth certificates. The Department of State recently announced a new voter ID card for voters who were not born in Pennsylvania.
Voters can obtain a new Department of State voter ID at PennDOT offices across the state. Voters will be asked to affirm they do not possess any other approved identification for voting purposes. They will be asked to provide their date of birth, Social Security number, and two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill. PennDOT will validate their voter registration status with the Department of State and issue their voter ID while they are in the PennDOT office the same day. These IDs are free and can be used—for voting purposes only—for a 10 year period.
Voters with driver’s licenses or non-driver photo IDs that expired more than 12 months ago can obtain a free non-driver photo ID at PennDOT Drivers License Centers across the state. These voters will be required to complete an application and state that they have no other photo ID for voting purposes. They will not need to present a birth certificate or any other proof of identification or residence.
Pennsylvania-born voters who have never been issued a driver’s license do not need to provide a birth certificate to obtain a photo ID. PennDOT will verify their birth records with the Department of Health. Once verified, PennDOT will notify the voters to return to the Drivers License Center with a Social Security card and two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill or tax statement, to obtain a free non-driver photo ID. This process should take approximately 10 days.
The process of obtaining proper identification to comply with the new law may be inconvenient for some, but we in the African-American community must work together to educate our neighbors, our pastors, our co-workers and our friends about the new law. If anyone needs help, we should inform, encourage, and assist them. By working together, and with PennDOT and the Department of State, we can ensure that all voters have what they need to cast their vote.
For more information on the new law, go to http://www.VotesPa.com or call 1-877-votespa (868-3772).
We can and must ensure that every person who wants to vote in November is ready.
(Karen Stokes is chairwoman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs.)