Pennsylvania's 2012 General Primary (that is the proper name) will be held next Tuesday and election officials will begin asking voters for proof-of identification. A lack of proof will not result in a voter not voting. It's just a test for what will happen in November's General Election. The General assembly passed and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law tough new standards requiring voters, especially first time voters to prove they have the right to vote at a particular polling place.
Republican supporters say it will cut down on voter fraud. Democratic detractors say it will disenfranchise minority and senior citizen electors.
More and more this is beginning to look like a circular firing squad.
Under the Motor Voter law, citizens can register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver's license. You simply answer "yes" when asked if you want to use your information to register to vote. You then pick a party.
The information is then transmitted to the 67 county Boards of Election. After a series of mailings to determine the accuracy of your information and conducting a verification of your address, your application is approved or rejected. 99% of all Motor Voter Applications are approved.
Here's my problem; come November you will need to bring your photo driver's license to verify your identity and right to vote. But by applying for a license, "YOU'VE ALREADY COMPLETED THIS STEP."
When I first worked for the Board of Election in Luzerne County, I was determined to stamp out voter fraud, insisting that every regulation be followed before a voter registration was approved. My much wiser staff promptly told me to "knock it off." While filling out a registration form is not brain surgery, voters make mistakes. Some are dumb. Some are really dumb. They aren't criminal and a trained election professional can quickly determine if a voter registration application is valid. The goal is always to get the voter to vote.
In a dispute over voter registration that occurs on the day of a primary or election, a voter can vote a provisional ballot. It won't be counted unless the voter furnishes proof, within six days, of their right to vote. The ballot is counted after all the other votes are counted. What does this mean for the voter? Everyone will know how that person voted. So much for a secret ballot.
One election, our office presented a voter to the Court of Common Pleas. Acting as both advocate and adversary we presented the facts to a County Judge. The facts showed the voter was not registered and ineligible to vote. Three minutes later the voter left that Judge's chambers with a court order allowing her to vote.
For years, the gold standard for identifying voters at the polls was the voter's signature. The signature you use is immediately compared to the signature on file. It's not perfect, but it is pretty darned good. It's quicker. You lose more voters who won't stand in long lines than you will by requiring them to produce a voter identification.
We'll see how the new system works.
Right now it's a regulation right out of the the Department of Redundancy Department.