2012-07-05 / State

Officials says more than 758,000 voters lack PennDOT photo ID

HARRISBURG (AP) — State officials say that more than 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have photo identification cards from the state transportation department, leaving their ability to vote in November in doubt unless they have another acceptable form of identification.

The Pennsylvania Department of State said Tuesday that a comparison of voter registration rolls with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation databases indicates that 91 percent of the commonwealth’s 8.2 million registered voters have PennDOT identification numbers.

“This thorough comparison of databases confirms that most Pennsylvanians have acceptable photo ID for voting this November,” department secretary Carol Aichele said in a news release. Officials noted that the review wouldn’t identify voters who may have other acceptable forms of ID.

Department officials had said previously that they believed that 99 percent of Pennsylvania voters already had the photo ID they will need at the polls in November.

In Philadelphia, 186,830 registered voters — 18 percent of the city’s total registration — do not have PennDot ID, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.

The new law requires all voters to show photo ID such as a driver’s license or nondriver PennDOT photo ID, U.S. passports, student identification cards with expiration dates, current military identification, or ID cards issued to government employees.

Officials also noted that of the 758,939 voters who lacked PennDOT identification numbers, 167,566 are inactive voters, most of whom haven’t voted in the last four years.

. “Our experience is, a lot of these people are former college students who don’t live here anymore,” department spokesman Ron Ruman told the newspaper. He said the survey may also have missed some voters who actually do have a PennDOT ID.

Republicans who advocated the law portray it as an effort to curb voter fraud, although Democratic critics charge that there’s no evidence of such fraud. They say the law — one of the toughest in the nation — is a thinly veiled effort to suppress the vote for President Barack Obama in a key battleground state in the fall election and argued that it would discriminate against elderly, poor and minority voters.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has scheduled a July 25 hearing on a challenge to the law, and an appeal could reach the state Supreme Court before November.

Philadelphia’s top election official, City Commission Chair Stephanie Singer, told the newspaper that the figures reinforced her view that the law was intended to decrease voter turnout in the predominantly Democratic city. She said Philadelphia “is hit much harder by this than any of the other counties.”

Nine other counties — Allegheny, Cameron, Centre, Cumberland, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Montour, and Union — were reported to have 10 percent to 12 percent of their voters without PennDot ID, the paper said. In the other 57 counties, according to the state data, more than 90 percent of voters reportedly had driver’s licenses or nondriver ID.

Ruman said the state planned to send county election boards lists of names and addresses of those without PennDOT ID by next week. In addition, he said, officials will send letters this summer to all voters without PennDot ID notifying them about the new law, listing the types of ID that can be used to vote in November and how to obtain suitable ID if needed.

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