There is a surprisingly easy way to avoid all the rigmarole
of getting a valid photo ID in order to vote in the November 6 Election.
Vote by absentee ballot.
The hurdles set up for confirming your ID on the absentee
ballot application are so low they are virtually non-existent. All you must do
is write down the last four digits of your Social Security number. (If you do have a valid PennDOT
license, you can write down that number instead.)
And that is it.
Sign the application, mail it into your local Election Bureau and the
folks there will send you an absentee ballot. Follow the instructions on how to fill it in and mail it
back your vote will be counted on Election Day.
Why is this important?
For those of you who have been in Katmandu or coma in recent
months, the state legislature passed and Gov. Corbett signed a new law
requiring the display of a valid photo ID by all voters when they go to the
polls. For the millions of
Pennsylvanians who had a driver's license it is a no-sweat deal. (As long as they remember to bring
their license with them when they vote.)
But, for the 1.6 million adult Pennsylvanians without a
driver's license, the law sets up a series of hurdles they must clear before
they can vote in person. If it sounds onerous and difficult it is because it was meant to be.
The law was passed to suppress turnout in those area of the state where there are large concentrations of Democratic voters. The Republicans who control the state can't stop them from supporting President Obama, so they are trying to stop them from voting for him.
To get a valid ID these folks must get: an original copy of their birth certificate; two proofs of residency (such as a utility bill or a tax return), and their Social Security card (the original card, not just the number). Then, they must take this material to their local PennDOT photo ID center, show the material to a clerk, then get in line and have their photo taken for a valid "Non-drivers ID card" as PennDOT calls it. The cards are free-of-charge, but if you have to get a copy of a birth certificate or marriage license those will cost you.
During a recent court case brought by opponents of the law, there was a lot of testimony about how hard it is for some to clear these hurdles: the woman who was born in Georgia - and a courthouse fire destroyed all birth records. A woman who was remarried and had her new name on her license, but still voted under her previous name. A woman who testified that the PennDOT photo ID place was 50 miles away - and only open two days a week.
It's a mess, especially since the legislature rushed implementation of the law in time to screw up the works this November. Some had urged implementation be delayed until next year. But how is that going to help Mitt Romney this year?
You can avoid all of this by voting absentee ballot - presuming you know the last four digits of your Social Security card. You need no other proof.
A word about absentee ballots: they were created to help voters who will be absent from their home counties on Election Day, and also those with physical disabilities.
In reality, their use is much more casual and widespread. I have urged people (my sons) to get absentee ballots in case they get too busy and forget to vote.
The way I see it: you have no way of knowing where you will be on Nov. 6, so why not play it safe and apply? Also, even if you are in the county, without a valid ID you would be denied the right to vote - turned away from the polls if you showed up. It has the same effect as being absent.
I find it ironic that the legislature passed this onerous ID law in the name of preventing voter fraud when voter impersonation is the rarest form of fraud. Absentee ballot fraud - along with buying votes - are the most common types, though even they tend to be miniscule compared to total votes cast.
Here is my final pitch: Don't let them take away your right to vote. Teach a lesson to the man by applying for an absentee ballot today.
If you have a friend or relative who is struggling to get the proper ID, get him or her a copy of the absentee ballot application and have them fill it out and mail it. (Committee people would do their voters a big favor by having a number of applications available as they canvas their divisions.)
You can go here to download and print out an application.
If you live in Philadelphia, mail it to:
County Board of Elections
Room 142 City Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19107
If you live in another county, you can go here to find a mailing address.
You can also visit the web site of the Philadelphia Election Bureau, which has absentee ballot forms to download, plus other useful information on voting.
-- Tom Ferrick