Turmoil Follows As Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Meets Reality

November 6, 2012 10:55 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Voting and civil rights activists said Tuesday that Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law was causing mass confusion across the state as people tried to go to the polls.

Because of a judge’s ruling in October, the law attempted to walk a line by allowing poll workers to ask voters for photo identification while also giving voters a big loophole to cast a regular ballot without it.The Election Protection coalition’s voter hotline here began lighting up with complaints soon after polls opened. Some voters said they were upset about being asked for photo identification. Others said they had been turned away because they did not provide it.

“We’ve definitely gotten reports about voters being turned away,” Eric Marshall, co-director of the Election Protection coalition, told TPM. “We’ve had reports of people who have shown up, been asked, and when they didn’t show ID they were turned away.”

Marshall said voting rights advocates were working to resolves the issues as quickly as possible. Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Peter Berson also told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his office had received complaints about poll workers who misunderstood the ruling.

Voting rights advocates had expressed worry about confusion on Election Day as soon as Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson issued his ruling in early October. Some advocates blamed state authorities for failing to properly train poll workers.

“What we don’t understand and what is problematic is that we all knew that this court case that was handed down quite awhile ago — not yesterday, not last week, quite a number of weeks ago — that we knew this was something the state really needed to train their poll workers well about,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “They really needed to drill down and double down on the training of poll watchers to make sure they understood the identification part. It’s very clear that was not done.”

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