East Penn Press

Monday, August 26, 2019


Wednesday, October 24, 2012 by The Press in Opinion

Is photo identification worth the cost to Pennsylvania voters?

In 1907, Samuel Adams wrote about the right to vote.

"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individualor at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country."

When State Rep. Daryl Metcalf, R-12th, Butler County, decided to introduce legislation to require voter identification in March 2011, the ability to vote in Pennsylvania came into question.

For many, especially senior citizens who do not have photo identification, a plan was put in place to issue a PennDOT non-driver's license identification card "at no charge" to qualifying citizens.

According to a Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Note issued March 6, the estimated citizen population in the Commonwealth is 9,642,277 as of January 2012. According to PennDOT, 9,552,700 adults have a Penn- DOT issued identification or 99.07 percent of the citizens.

Of that number, 8,186,052 are registered voters as of March 2012.

Legislators estimated Penn- DOT would produce 76,048 IDs at a cost of $13.50 each or a total of $1,026,654.

Knowing this, Governor Tom Corbett appropriated $1 million in the proposed 2012-2013 General Fund to reimburse the Motor License Fund for the costs of issuing photo identification cards for voter purposes.

In addition, Department of State intends to utilize Help America Vote Act federal funds to fund the cost of getting the word out in 2012. That cost is estimated to be $3,837,500 and includes mailings, radio ads, television ads and robocalls.

The report also estimates the Department of State will continue to incur costs for reimbursing PennDOT for renewing non-license ID cards at an estimated cost of $2.264 million annually.

If you are still with me, we are currently at $4,837,500 to execute the right to choose elected officials to govern on our behalf and issue "free" photo identifications.

To qualify to execute that right, one must appear at the polls with a valid identification which includes a photo identification which matches your name with that in the district register and an expiration date which is not expired. Exceptions include military ID cards with an indefinite expiration date and PennDOT IDs which allow for a 12-month grace period for expired licenses.

For residents who do not have a valid ID, they must appear at a PennDOT Driver's License Center, provide their name, address, social security number, proof of residence, county and sign an oath/affirmation form saying they have no other acceptable identification.

Many seniors use a veterans identification card for identification purposes such as medical or dental, but for voting it is not valid because it does not have an expiration date.

For some seniors, the process of finding transportation to the Driver's License Center, providing proof of residency and potentially waiting in line is enough to discourage them from acquiring the new ID.

In September, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center worked with volunteer observers who made 44 visits to PennDOT driver's license centers in 35 counties to access their handling of the non-driver photo IDs. They reported shortcomings at some of these sites which they felt were confusing less-informed voters.

The way I see it, although these voters have been faithful in their voting habits, this right and privilege could turn into more of a hassle with seniors perceiving it as just another way for the government to observe and control what they do.

This legislation by Metcalf also affects businesses like Country Meadows Retirement Communities who purchased a machine to produce valid photo identifications for their residents and so far have produced approximately 400 cards.

I suspect the damage has already been done; some of our Pennsylvania residents who normally vote will not go to the polls in two weeks because they do not have sufficient identification even though they don't need it in this election.

Call me crazy, but instead of spending all of this money on photo identifications, perhaps we could restore some education funding, fix statewide fraud in other areas, create additional jobs, improve our transportation system including rail service or create walking and bicycle paths. Instead of the federal government sending money for voter IDs, could we not have requested that money to be used in these other areas?

Isn't there a better way to spend $4,837,500 in Pennsylvania?

Debbie Galbraith


East Penn Press

Salisbury Press