As a trial over the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law stretched into a second week in Commonwealth Court, attorneys for the challengers introduced evidence Monday showing that state officials had raised concerns about the potential disenfranchisement of senior citizens in the months leading up to the bill’s final passage. Michael Rubin, an Arnold & Porter LLP attorney representing the challengers, pointed to a memo penned by officials in the Department of State and the Department of Aging in November 2011 raising concerns that voters residing in assisted living facilities that double as polling places might be robbed of their votes if they don’t qualify for absentee ballots and are unable to obtain qualifying IDs due to their age or medical condition. The memo recommended that absentee ballot requirements — which currently mandate that a voter submit an affidavit swearing their inability to make it to the polls on account of illness or disability — be expanded for individuals whose long-term care facilities also serve as polling places. While these individuals might be able to get to their polling places on Election Day, the memo suggested, there was a chance they might be unable to obtain proper IDs from one of 71 driver’s license centers throughout the state.
“We believe that providing the absentee voting option for these voters is a good solution to ensure that no qualified elector is disenfranchised because illness or disability prevented him or her from obtaining necessary proof of ID — no matter the circumstances involved,” the memo said.
However, former Department of State policy director Rebecca Oyler testified Monday that the suggestion was not ultimately incorporated into the voter ID bill that was ultimately signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett as Act 18 in March 2012.
Instead, Oyler testified, the bill ultimately allowed care facilities to issue their own forms of identification that were deemed acceptable under the law.
Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Corbett’s Office of General Counsel, said the facility-issued IDs were a better solution to the problem because they offered residents identification cards they could use in other situations as well.