When we go to the polls to cast our vote for a person to represent our interests on our behalf in a government body – the most basic freedom we have as Americans – we expect that vote to count. In fact, very few of us give it a second thought.
Unfortunately, documented cases of voter fraud have been taking place in our Commonwealth in recent years, and that is intolerable. It is intolerable because casting fraudulent ballots cancels out the legitimate votes we cast as citizens, effectively robbing us of our voice in representative government.
In 2008, the Allegheny County district attorney charged seven individuals with filing hundreds of fraudulent voter registrations. Also in 2008, and closer to home, a Harrisburg man was charged with falsifying 19 registration applications in York City.
As these are only some examples of many instances of voter fraud identified by authorities in Pennsylvania, it was clear some action needed to be taken. Recently, a measure designed to ensure our elections are decided by legitimately cast ballots was signed into law.
The new law, Act 18 of 2012, requires registered voters to present valid photo identification every time they appear to vote. Those who vote using absentee ballots will only need to provide the last four numbers of their Social Security number, or their driver’s license number on their absentee ballot application.
First and foremost is ensuring that no voter will be turned away on Election Day. That is why the new law allows any voter who arrives without identification to vote using a provisional ballot and then take up to six days to show valid identification to his or her county election board.
For all other voters, valid forms of identification must include a name, photo and expiration date, except when an individual presents a military identification card. A driver’s license or identification card issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, military identification cards, cards issued by an accredited Pennsylvania higher education institution and licensed, long-term care facility will all be accepted.
If a voter does not possess an identification card, a non-driver ID can be obtained free of charge from PennDOT. The person will need to present a Social Security card, and either a certificate of U.S. citizenship, a certificate of naturalization, a valid U.S. passport, a birth certificate with a raised seal, plus two proofs of residency such as lease agreements, current utility bills, mortgage documents, a W-2 form, or tax records.
Voters should also be aware that this law will be enforced using a “soft rollout.” That means for the April 24 primary election, voters may be asked for their identification, but that is only to get them accustomed to the practice and they will be allowed to vote regardless. However, for the Nov. 6 general election, the new identification law will be fully enforced.
For information on obtaining an identification card, visit my website, RepHickernell.com and click on the “New Voter ID Law” banner, or call my district office in Elizabethtown at (717) 367-5525, or in Columbia at (717) 684-5525.