What Pa. students need to know

By Josh Spaulding 

October 18, 2012

This election year there has been a lot of confusing information about the ID a voter needs to cast a ballot. Fortunately, earlier this month, a Pennsylvania court correctly put on hold a law that required all Pennsylvania voters to show a photo ID to vote. Only those voting for the first time and voters that moved to a new polling place will have to show an ID to vote in the November election but  it  doesn’t  have  to  be  a  photo  ID. Poll workers will continue to ask voters to show a photo ID but a person who is not voting for the first time at that polling location can still vote a regular ballot even if they lack ID.

“The back and forth caused by the photo ID law passed earlier this year may cause confusion for voters – particularly college students in Pennsylvania,”  Dan Vicuna, Campus Vote Project coordinator, said.  “When the law first passed they were told their student IDs may not comply with the new law. Now the law will not be in effect for November but poll workers will still ask for a photo ID when they go vote. Students need clear and accurate information so they can  exercise  their  right  to  vote  this  November.”

The voter registration deadline has passed. October 9 was the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania. If you moved since the last time you registered to vote, you can still vote if you moved within the same precinct. If you moved from one precinct to another, you might be able to vote one last time at your old polling place. Check http://www.votespa.com for details and your voter registration status.

What ID You Need to Vote: YOU DO NOT NEED TO SHOW A PHOTO ID TO VOTE A REGULAR BALLOT. A poll worker will ask you to show a photo ID, but if you do not have one on you, you can still vote a regular ballot. First-time voters and voters that moved to a new polling location must show an ID to vote. You can show either a photo ID or non-photo ID. Approved forms of voter ID include:

Photo Identification:  Pennsylvania  driver’s  license  or  PennDOT ID card; ID issued by any Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agency; ID issued by the U.S. Government; U.S. passport; U.S. Armed Forces ID; student ID; or employee ID; OR

Non-photo Identification (showing name and address): voter registration card issued by voter registration commission; non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth; non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government, firearm permit; or a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government check.

Absentee Ballot by Mail: To vote by absentee ballot in Pennsylvania, you MUST have an excuse. An application for absentee ballot must be received by the county board of elections by 5PM on October 30. Go to http://www.votespa.com for an application.

Students can also call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) with questions about voting or to report problems they encountered casting their ballots.

The Fair Elections Legal Network has student voting guides available for Pennsylvania and several other states that provide information on polling times, how to find a polling location, voting absentee, and ID requirements. The student voting guides can be found at: http://www.campusvoteproject.org/studentguides.

The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is a national, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. whose overall mission is to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies and improve overall election administration through administrative, legal, and legislative reform.

Josh Spaulding is the Communications and Policy Manager for the Fair Elections Legal Network. He can be reached at jspaulding@fairelectionsnetwork.com.

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