Last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments on why Act 18 (voter ID legislation) should be ruled unconstitutional or at least delayed in its implementation for the Nov. 6 General Election.
Because November is approaching quickly and the voter ID mandate may be affirmed, I sent a letter to Governor Tom Corbett and Secretary of State Carol Aichele in mid-August asking them to authorize state offices as a place where individuals can go to get their photo identification, or at the very least, establish more centers in neighborhoods for this purpose. After all, while we wait for the court decision, our state should be doing everything in its power to make sure everyone has the ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard from representatives of both the Secretary of State as well as the Governor’s office. Both offices have thanked me for the suggestion but ultimately are not interested in exploring my idea for neighborhood centers. I am deeply disappointed by this decision. This clearly demonstrates to me that the Administration fails to recognize the importance in making the process of obtaining a voter ID easier and more convenient for those who lack the necessary photo identification.
For many voters who do not possess a driver’s license, getting themselves to a Driver’s License Center is a serious challenge. In story after story we have heard about the glitches in the system and long waits at PennDOT. Unless the Supreme Court strikes down this law or delays its implementation in the coming weeks, tens of thousands of voters in Allegheny County may be disenfranchised, simply by lacking the means to get to one of only four Driver’s License Centers in the county.
What is even more unsettling to me was the denial of allowing state offices to serve as intermediaries where individuals can go and get their photo taken and have their paperwork forwarded to PennDOT. One of the stated reasons for denying our request is that “PennDOT’s ID issuance process is highly secure and conducted by trained document examiners, possibly making it an administrative challenge to be done in legislative offices around the state.”
I have convenient district offices spread throughout the areas that I represent and every day my offices process multiple requests for various clearances and certificates. Individuals trust my staff with confidential information on a daily basis. One of our top priorities is to make sure this information is handled in a proper way and never compromised.
In fact, between April 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 alone, my office processed over 500 PennDOT requests. This clearly demonstrates that district offices have the ability to serve as intermediaries at the will of constituents. After all, shouldn’t the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and General Assembly be working with the citizens of our state to make sure everyone has the proper identification to vote in a timely manner?
Even though the Administration is not willing to agree with my suggestion of how to make getting a voter ID as simple and convenient as possible for people of Pennsylvania, my office stands ready to help. If you have questions about your identification or need more information on how to get the necessary ID to vote, please call or stop by one of my offices. Please contact us should you or someone you know need to get to a PennDOT center and we will work with you to find you transportation if you need it. As always, I will continue to work to bring this service to the community and look forward to serving your needs in the future.
—Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District