By Jared Sichel | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Opponents of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law said state employees are not giving correct information to people seeking identification as part of the voter registration process.
This theme pervaded the plaintiffs’ testimonies about employees at the state Department of Transportation given during the fifth day of court hearings at the Commonwealth Court here.
Lawyers representing 10 Pennsylvania voters argued Tuesday that because some PennDOT employees don’t know the details of the law, the state cannot fully implement its own legislation before the November elections.
In March, Pennsylvania became the ninth state to require photo ID as a condition of voting. The law states that people who don’t have an approved form of photo ID can obtain a free voter ID card from PennDOT.
Madeline Rawley, a member of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, whose mission is to boost voter turnout, testified that she went to a PennDOT office to gauge whether its employees were prepared to handle an influx of people asking for free voter ID cards. She said the employee told her that a voter ID card costs $13.50.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys then presented the PennDOT form Rawley was given at the office. The form allows a free ID for only one group of people — those who have a state driver’s license and would like to terminate it in exchange for a photo ID.
Two other witnesses recounted similar experiences at PennDOT offices.
The law says anyone without an approved ID can get one for free — but the testimonies Tuesday suggest that some PennDOT employees weren’t aware of that provision of the law.
Rawley said she doubts everyone who wants to vote will know how to register in time for elections.
“We really don’t know what to do,” she told the court. “I don’t think it’s going to get out to the general public.”
John Jordan, an official for the Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP, told the court that he’s “not confident at all” that the state can register everyone who wants to vote in this election.
The state’s attorneys argued that none of the testimonies showed one person who was denied an ID or made to pay for one.
Republicans argue that the law will protect the integrity of elections by reducing fraud. Democrats say voter fraud doesn’t exist and the law will make registration difficult for people who want to vote but don’t have an approved photo ID.
The final witnesses will testify Wednesday and closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday. Judge Robert Simpson is expected to make a decision before September.