Voter ID ads still cause controversy

Some feel that the ads, which vary little from previous ads, will lead to confusion at the polls

· November 5, 2012, 11:10 pm   ·  Updated November 5, 2012, 11:37 pm

Although not in effect for this election, Pennsylvania’s voter identification law could still cause confusion at the polls.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson handed down an injunction on the voter ID law on Oct. 2, citing that the state would not be able to ensure voters would receive proper ID by Election Day. While voters will be asked for photo ID at the polls, they will not be required to show an ID. First-time voters have always been required to show IDs.

After Simpson’s ruling, the state changed its voter ID educational campaign and began running advertisements detailing the new rules for the November election.

“I think from the perspective of many people, the state ads which were changed in the wake of Judge Simpson’s decision … have been misleading,” said Committee of Seventy Vice President and Policy Director Ellen Kaplan. The Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan, Philadelphia-based watchdog group and election information source.

TThe new ad has an identical introduction to the one that ran before the temporary injunction on the law. It features people holding several valid forms of photo ID — in the video, represented by a Pennsylvania-issued driver’s license, a student ID card, a United States passport and Pennsylvania Department of State-issued voter ID card — and saying, “If you care about this election … show it.”

The ads begin to differ 18 seconds into the 30-second ad. A voice-over explains that voters “will be asked, but not required, to show a photo ID.” The ad that ran before the injunction featured the same actors and lines until the 18 second mark, where the voice-over said, to vote in Pennsylvania, voters “need an acceptable photo ID with a valid expiration date.”

The challengers to the original law, which included the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, went back before Simpson on Oct. 9 to ask for an injunction on the ads, Kaplan said. Simpson gave the state until Oct. 30 to respond, which the former plaintiffs believed would still be too close to Election Day to make a difference.

On Nov. 1, Simpson ruled that the state could continue to run the ads.

The front page of VotesPA.com, a website run by the Pennsylvania Department of State, reminds visitors that they will be asked but not required to show ID and directs to them a page on the new ID requirements.

The Department of State did not return calls for an interview.

A hearing for a permanent injunction on the voter ID law will take place Dec. 13.

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