9,500 voter IDs issued in Pennsylvania since law's approval
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
HARRISBURG — About 9,500 people got state-issued photo identification cards since Pennsylvania approved its voter ID law in March.
The Department of State, which oversees elections, expects that figure to increase before the Nov. 6 election if the law withstands further legal scrutiny, spokesman Ron Ruman said.
But an opponent of the law on Wednesday called the number “ridiculously small.”
Ruman provided the update a day after the state Supreme Court vacated a judge's ruling upholding the law requiring voters to show approved photo ID at the polls. The Supreme Court instructed Commonwealth Court to review efforts by the state to ensure the law would not disenfranchise voters.
“Our position is any registered voter who wants a voter ID can get one,” Ruman said.
Officials expect more people to get IDs because of a $5 million education effort and because groups fighting the law have been working to get people registered, he said.
“The effort to reach those who need the IDs thus far has been clearly unsatisfactory,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, who voted against the law. “The ridiculously small number of voter IDs that have been issued is not nearly enough to reach the population of those who need the IDs.
“At the very least, the lack of IDs provided at this point in time cries out for an injunction to be issued to delay the implementation of the law until a better approach can be developed,” Costa said.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson must issue a new order by Oct. 2 under a Supreme Court deadline. In August, Simpson upheld the law, which is based on an Indiana law that the U.S. Supreme Court approved.
During a six-day hearing, estimates varied widely on how many people would not have proper ID. The figures ran from 89,000 to more than 1 million, depending on the witness. Simpson said he rejected attempts by the law's opponents to “inflate the numbers in various ways.”
Secretary of State Carol Aichele estimated 89,000 people might not have PennDOT-issued identification. Ruman said there is no way to measure how many people have other acceptable forms from nursing homes, universities, military and government agencies.
“The state, at one time, admitted 758,924 people didn't have ID. The AFL-CIO says it's closer to 1.4 million people. If any of these numbers are close to accurate, 9,500 is sort of pathetic,” said Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, a critic of the law.
The Supreme Court ruled Simpson must bar the law's use in the November election unless the state convinces him that its efforts will halt voter disenfranchisement.
The $5 million in federal money came from the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The advertising and educational effort would have been done with or without voter ID, Ruman said. The state can use the money only in federal election years, so it would not be available next year if the court postpones voter ID.
The state is running a $1.3 million TV advertising campaign featuring an ad called “Show It.” The largest expenditure, $1.5 million, was for mailing postcards to registered voters.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 717-787-1405or email@example.com.
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