By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Pennsylvania's new voter ID law requires that, beginning in November of this year, all voters present a photo ID every time they vote (see related story).
But you need to plan ahead, especially if you don't have a current driver's license. And you may have to spend some money to get the documents you need.
So, which photo IDs are considered valid?
Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, says photo IDs issued by federal or state governments, and just a few others from approved sources, will be accepted.
"That would include Pennsylvania driver's licenses or non-license photo IDs, a US passport, a US military ID, (or) a photo ID from an accredited Pennsylvania public or private college," he says.
Federal, state, or municipal work IDs are also acceptable, as well as photo IDs issued by nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
But, Ruman says, voters should check their state-issued IDs for an expiration date, which is required for the ID to be accepted.
"The driver's licenses and non-driver photo IDs are valid for voting purposes twelve months after expiration. All other IDs must be current," he says.
Hurdle For Non-Drivers
A state driver's license is the most common form of acceptable voter ID, yet when you compare 2010 census numbers to Pennsylvania DMV statistics from the same year, at least a million eligible Pennsylvania voters may not have a license.
"We have issued about 600 of the photo IDs," said Penndot spokesman Dennis Buterbaugh last week (see related story).
Free Or Pay?
Buterbaugh says the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will the photo ID without charge to any voter who swears that he or she has no other ID that is acceptable for voting.
"We have a list of things that we ask them, because some photo IDs that people already have will suffice under the letter of the law," Buterbaugh tells KYW Newsradio. "So we go down the list of acceptable IDs and if they affirm that they don't have any other IDs, they sign a paper and then the ID is free for them."
But remember, you can only get the ID -- free or not -- if you have the necessary documentation. That includes a Social Security card and proof of citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate (see related story).
"We recommend, as with any birth certificate request, that you just plan ahead," notes Christine Conkright, of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. She says that Pennsylvania birth certificates cost between $10 and $20, and could take up to 14 weeks to obtain.
"If you order via mail it could take up to 14 weeks, because there is a backlog," she notes.
Birth certificates are also available for purchase online ($20), as well as in person ($10). For more info on how to get a birth certificate in Pennsylvania, go to http://www.portal.state.pa.us/.
But there is some good news. For older Pennsylvanians or anyone who at one time had a driver's license, the process is simpler: tell Penndot your name or show your expired license at a licensing center, and you could get a photo ID while you wait (see related story).
Guidance From Experts
Helping Pennsylvania voters make the transition for the new voter ID law before it takes place this November, the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition was formed. It's comprised of 66 organizations across the commonwealth, including the Committee of Seventy and the Pennsylvania ACLU.
"We are focusing on educating every possible voter," says coalition co-convener Joe Certaine, who says they are using the April 24th primary to prepare voters for the real deal in November.
"Officials at each polling place will be asking for a photo ID card," he tells KYW Newsradio. "Now, you don't have to produce one, but there will be literature inside of the polling place explaining what the voter photo ID law is," and that, come November, the ID for voting won't be optional.
Committee of 70 executive director Zack Stalberg says his group is taking the lead on voter outreach:
"We're hoping to put people at every polling place in the city, to hand out information so that people understand what it will take."
Stalberg agrees that voters who don't have proper ID should start the process of getting one now.
Ruman, the Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman, says the April 24th primary will be a "dry run" for the November general election, so if you have an ID that you'd like to have checked, bring it with you to the polls this month.
For more info on the Voter ID law, go to the Committee of 70 web site at seventy.org or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. For information on how to get a free photo ID, go to http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/voter/voteridlaw.shtml.
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