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Letter to the Editor: Real-Life Experience with New PA Voter ID Law

Lansdale resident Liz Troy shared this story with Lansdale Patch of her troubles taking a veteran to get a voter ID in Norristown.

 

Many opinions will be published on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, but there’s nothing like a real-life example to illustrate the state’s ill-preparedness to serve its citizenry under this new mandate. Below is my experience.

On Thursday morning I took 86-year-old “Beatrice” to obtain her voter ID. Although we live in Lansdale, we had to drive to . Last week, Beatrice had been turned away at the Harleysville photo center. In Montgomery County, voter ID cards are issued in Norristown and Huntingdon Valley only.

In preparation for the trip, I had consulted www.VotesPA.com to ensure that Beatrice would have all required documentation. Social Security card? Check. Birth certificate with raised seal? Check. Two proofs of residency such as current utility bills showing name and address? Check.

We arrived at before the 8:30 a.m. opening. Initially it was unclear where to go, because there are two buildings. The left entrance is for people holding camera cards, so we got in line on the right. When the facility opened, Beatrice was called immediately. She took a seat and I stood behind her as an advocate. Although Beatrice was the first customer of the day, the worker behind the desk was already gruff.

The worker handed her a complex-looking small-font application form: PennDOT’s Application for Initial Identification Card. This form does not have “voter ID” as an option. All but one checkbox in Section B list a $13.50 fee; the only option marked as “FREE” is for surrendering driving privileges. I asked what Beatrice should check off since “this is supposed to be free.” The annoyed response was “Why do you think this is going to be free?” I said, “Because this is for voter ID.” The worker rolled her eyes and retrieved a second form: the Affirmation That Voter Does Not Already Possess Proof of Identification for Voting Purposes. Beatrice signed it.

Now it was time for Beatrice to present her bag-full of documents. Social Security card? Check. Next, Beatrice fumbled through the bag and produced her birth certificate — along with her marriage certificate. Beatrice had the forethought to pack this additional document, even though it was not mentioned on the website. The birth certificate alone would not have been sufficient because her birth name is different from her married name.

Finally, two proofs of residency. Beatrice had packed several utility bills, including an invoice with rent and utilities combined. The worker rejected this, because “rent is not on the list.” Beatrice also had Comcast and PECO bills. Her shaky hands pulled papers out of the Comcast envelope. Without even unfolding the papers, the worker rejected the Comcast bill because she claimed it did not show name and address. While the worker inspected the PECO bill, I located the name and address on the Comcast bill. Reluctantly, the worker accepted these documents and gave Beatrice the paperwork for her photo.

In the other building, Beatrice was photographed, but did not receive her permanent card that day. Instead, a card with a red “TEMPORARY” stamp was issued, good for 15 days. The permanent card is to be mailed within that window. We left the photo center at 9:15 am.

This experience illustrates several junctures where a voter can be led astray — for example, being charged $13.50 for a free service and being turned away even with the required documentation. 

Voting is a right, and the Pennsylvania legislature is making our citizens jump through convoluted hoops to retain it. Beatrice and the rest of the non-driving voters in the state deserve better than that.

Liz Troy, Lansdale
Secretary of the Lansdale Democratic Committee

No Excuses May 14, 2012 at 08:15 PM
I think it's terrible that Beatrice and you had this type of experience. However, the problem is with the DMV and it's unionized, bureaucratic employees, not the fact that Beatrice needed an id.
Emil Gruber May 14, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I don't understand the support for this law-- those who support it seem to only deflect the issues where it restricts voting rights as minor inconveniences, rather than explain why this inconveniences are possible in the first place. Voter fraud is incredibly uncommon to the point that it's a nonissue. Why are we sacrificing our rights (or, if you want to insist otherwise, our convenience) for wholly unnecessary leigslature?
Mike Shortall Sr May 15, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Geez, it didn't really sound all that traumatic. Aside from confusion at the ID center this anecdotal tale does not illustrate an unreasonable obstacle to voting. Voting IS a right, a right that should be enjoyed by legal residents and properly registered voters. You need an ID to accomplish just about everything in life nowadays. Why not voting? It's a simple, controlled way to ensure the integrity of the vote to the greatest extent praticable. The angst people associate with this requirement is way overdramatized for MOST people who do not possess the required documentation.
Feodor Tiorlenko May 15, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Hatboro Mike is a certified idiot. Hatboro Mike's free speech is a right also. What I.D. did the aforesaid dope provide before gracing these pages with his drivel. Maybe he really lives in Philly and his name is Norman. Time for a lawsuit. That's all the lawmakers understand.
Liz from Norristown May 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Thank you Feodor. I couldn't think of an appropriate, printable response.
Mike Shortall Sr May 15, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Ah. yes ... The warmth of intelligent discourse washes over me. Feodor's an example of all that's wrong with politics in this country. Disagree with the mob and all civility goes out the window, preceded of course by all intelligence.
Mike Shortall Sr May 15, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Liz, how about simply stating your views, avoiding the Seven Magic Words, instead of letting the brick-throwers do it for you?
Feodor Tiorlenko May 16, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Intelligent conversation, a Hatboro Mike oxymoron. Mike acknowledges his seven word vocabulary. Those words can be found on the Tea Bag page.
Mike Shortall Sr May 16, 2012 at 04:16 PM
ouch ... Let me know when you either a) grow up, or b) want to have an intelligent discussion. (I don't have a problem conversing with a child, just in case my hunch is right.) Maybe you can start by telling me where any of my above comments on this story were wrong or the result of misinterpretation. Otherwise, your childish tantrums will be ignored from here on.
Feodor Tiorlenko May 18, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Let's talk about Intelligent Mike. Intelligence is inherited, education is acquired. Expression one's opinion is easy, expressing facts takes work. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has never prosecuted a case of voter fraud. Never is a long time, in fact never is defined as the longest time imaginable. So when a body passes a law to curtail an action that has never occurred, it is, in fact, trying to curtail an act that it does not want to occur. In this case, the Commonwealth is attempting to curtail voting by minorities, the disabled and the elderly. Why??? Because their voting record belies they don't vote for radical bigots, you know, this current bunch of right-wing Tea Baggers, quite like Front-Page Mike. So any intelligent conversation doesn't start with opinions. The conversation starts with research that either supports or refutes the question at hand. So that being said, Hatboro Mike, or Philadelphia Norman, or Chester Chuck, whoever that person is, who to date has provided no one with an I.D. continues to present himself as a moron, Why is Hatboro Mike a moron??? Because, despite having the forum of The Patch as bully pulpit, lacks even the abiltiy to go on to then internet to research his question about voter fraud and present anything resembling facts. So as long as Hatboro Mike expresses his opinion, his ignorant opinion, he will be ripe for being labeled a moron, or an idiot, or an imbecile, all of which apply.
Mike Shortall Sr May 19, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Feodor, you're a schmuck, plain and simple. I made several relevant observations about the particulars of this specific "horrendous experience", and all you can add is your bloviating attempt to dismiss the legitimacy of making the vote more secure, less prone to fraud by acting like a complete loon. Whatever ... There are plenty of specific instances of voter fraud found all around the country. Just because Pennsylvania hasn't successfully prosecuted one does not render the effort unnecessary. Lack of prosecution has more to do with how hard it is to build a winnable court case. It does not mean no instances ever occurred. Many of them have, mostly among your friends in Philadelphia. It a good law, long overdue. Now go pick your nose, and make it a complete day. You've probably blew a few blood vessels with all that misplaced hostility. For me, I'll simply ignore your existence. You're quite obviously not worth the effort.

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