Voters turn from PennDOT, take ID requests on campus
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
A local push to issue photo identification through the Community College of Allegheny County drew 33 voters on Monday evening, many of them steamed over Pennsylvania's Election Day ID mandate.
Several said the state's own attempt at free voter-ID distribution, through the Department of Transportation, has proven too disjointed and inconvenient.
“Every time I get off work, everything is closed,” said James Fitzgerald, 50, of East Liberty, who stood in line about 15 minutes at the CCAC Homewood-Brushton Center on Homewood Avenue.
Subonda Johnson, 48, of Homewood brought her 78-year-old mother, who she said doesn't have the proper paperwork to obtain ID through PennDOT.
Trekking to “the DMV is everyone's worst nightmare,” said observer Kyndall Mason, 33, of Lawrenceville, who works for the One Pittsburgh coalition. “There has to be a way, if (the state) is going to play with us like this, that we can fight back.”
Residents sought the IDs a day before an expected decision on the voter-ID rule, fought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and other groups. The state Supreme Court told Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson to decide by Tuesday whether the law — forcing voters to produce state-approved photo ID at the polls — will remain in effect for the Nov. 6 general election.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald revealed his local ID-distribution plan on Sept. 20, saying it would ease access. He said both CCAC and Kane Regional Centers will offer free voter IDs to any registered Pennsylvania voters at scheduled times between now and Election Day. But future distribution hinges on Simpson's ruling, a CCAC spokesman said.
Reached Monday night, Fitzgerald said he was “pretty pleased” with the CCAC turnout. “Probably the word will get around” and buoy the effort, he said.
The plan, for which the county has announced no budget, allows the county entities to print photo IDs on loose-leaf paper for residents who present ample documentation.
Montgomery County commissioners, outside Philadelphia, adopted a similar approach last month, though others have questioned its legality.
The Pennsylvania Department of State has said the plan defies the intent of the voter-ID rule and has not endorsed the effort.
State officials encourage those seeking free ID to visit PennDOT centers. PennDOT could not be reached immediately Monday night.
Voters interviewed in Homewood had no qualms with the Fitzgerald plan. Among those who secured ID through the CCAC was former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Mas-loff, 94. That she had to queue up “shows you how ludicrous the whole situation is,” said Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project.
“Hopefully, the judge (Simpson) will have enough nonpartisan wisdom to know there's been too much confusion” to allow the mandate to stand, Stevens said.
Signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March, the rule has garnered strong Republican support and Democratic dissent. Simpson must determine whether the requirement provides ample access to photo IDs and whether it would keep legitimate voters from casting ballots, according to the state Supreme Court order.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or email@example.com.
You must be signed in to add comments
To comment, click the Sign in or sign up at the very top of this page.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.