Concerns were raised Friday in Commonwealth Court that voters, poll workers, and state Department of Transportation employees remain in the dark about Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. During the third day of hearings in a court challenge to the law, a Department of State official said letters sent in the last few weeks to the 758,000 registered voters who are believed to not have the correct PennDot ID did not contain details about the department’s new voting-only ID card. “It wasn’t finalized at the time the letters were sent,” said Shannon Royer, deputy secretary for external affairs and elections. The letters also do not tell voters where to go to obtain ID, but direct them to a website and phone number they can use to obtain more information.
The four-month-old law, championed by Republicans, requires every voter to show a valid photo ID. Its backers argue the law will prevent fraud. Democrats contend it is a thinly disguised barrier to voting aimed at poor and minority groups. It is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. Witnesses at the hearing Friday said they had issues with the accessibility of PennDot centers. Approximately half of the counties in Pennsylvania either do not have PennDot photo and licensing centers or such centers are open only one or two days each week, according to evidence provided by the plaintiffs.
Concern over whether PennDot employees are adequately prepared to help voters obtain the new ID has been expressed by Secretary of State Carol Aichele, who is responsible for running elections. Witnesses on the plaintiffs’ list have stated in depositions that PennDot charged them for the cost of the new ID, though the IDs are supposed to be free.