Thanks to our partners at the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania for providing these resources for voters with disabilities!
With Election Day coming next Tuesday, voters with disabilities need to be prepared for the challenges you may face. This election – because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy and Pennsylvania’s Voter ID controversy – could present additional obstacles to voting. This Survival Kit will provide you with the information you might need to fight to cast your vote and have it counted.
Justin Dart, the “father” of the Americans with Disabilities Act, said: “Vote as if your life depends on it — because it does.”
Most of this message is specific to the laws and voting procedures of Pennsylvania. I encourage you to forward this message to anyone who may be assisted with this information. If you live in a state other than Pennsylvania, please note that some of the laws and procedures in your state may be different.
I’ve attempted to locate the official forms that you might need, and put them in accessible formats.
Here is an outline of what follows:
Are there new requirements because of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law?
The new voter ID law in Pennsylvania was in the news a lot about over the past six months. However a court postponed the requirements of that law until after Tuesday’s Election. As discussed below, only those voters in the “first-time” categories are required to show some ID.
However, voters who vote by Absentee Ballot will have to provide some additional information because of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law – only those requirements on Absentee Voters were not postponed by the court. Absentee Ballot voters will be asked for (1) Driver’s license or non-driver ID number; (2) last 4 digits of social security number; or photocopy of a limited number of acceptable forms of ID.
How do I verify that I am registered to vote?
This is the official Pennsylvania Department of State website; it will also tell you where you polling place is located and whether it is officially designated as accessible or not. As stated below, if your Election Day experience is that the accessibility information is not accurate, please let the Department of State, your County, and me, know.
How do I locate my correct polling place?
This is the official Pennsylvania Department of State site; it will even tell you whether your polling place is considered accessible — or not. If your Election Day experience is that the accessibility information is not accurate, please let the Department of State, your County, and me, know.
Will I be required to show ID to vote?
Only first-time voters, and all voters who are voting for the first time in a precinct, can be required to show an acceptable form of ID. You may be asked – but you are not required to show ID unless you fit into one of these “first-time” categories. You can find a list of acceptable forms of ID here:
If you are required to show ID and you do not have ID when you go to vote (and if returning later with proper ID is not an option) you have a right to vote by a Provisional Ballot. Provisional Ballots receive greater scrutiny than other ballots. However, if you are registered to vote, and if your signature matches the signature on your voter’s signature card, then your Provisional Ballot should get counted. If necessary, casting a Provisional Ballot is much better than not voting at all.
Can I get assistance in the voting booth if I need it?
Voters with disabilities have the right to receive assistance in the voting booth from the person of their choice. The person providing assistance can be almost anyone – a friend, a family member, or even a poll worker. However, the assistant cannot be: (1) the voter’s employer; (2) the voter’s union representative; or (3) the Judge of Elections.
When a voter with a disability requests assistance in the voting booth, the poll worker should look up your registration card to see if it has a notation indicating that you require assistance. If there is no notation on the card, you will be required to complete a written statement explaining the nature of your disability, and why you require assistance. Some voters may be offended at intrusive questions like asking for the name, phone # and address of their doctor. But the poll workers are required to enter all this information, along with the name of the individual who provided assistance, into the “Record of Assisted Voters.” The voting process is a very formal process with many safeguards.
What if I find my polling place is not accessible on Election Day? How can I vote?
Voters with disabilities, as well as seniors 65 and older – who are assigned to inaccessible polling places – are eligible to cast an Alternative Ballot. It is called an “Alternative” ballot because it is a method of voting provided to the voter as an alternative to having an accessible location. (Some deal!)
An Alternative Ballot looks exactly like an Absentee Ballot, but a different colored envelope is used to distinguish it from an Absentee Ballot.
The normal deadline to file an application for an Alternative Ballot is the Tuesday before Election Day. However, if you did not know that your polling place is inaccessible, or if you had some good cause for not being able to file by that deadline – you can still vote! The Pennsylvania Department of State created procedures for an Emergency Application for an Alternative Ballot, which may be filed as late as Election Day at 8:00 p.m. A voter with a disability who discovers on Election Day that their polling place is not accessible can file an Emergency Application for an Alternative Ballot. This Emergency Application must be filed on Election Day, before 8:00 p.m., at your County Elections Office.
What if you can’t get to your County Elections Office on Election Day? If you are unable to travel to the County Elections Office on Election Day, you can get a friend or relative to act as your agent to travel back and forth to the County Elections Office.
You will need to prepare three forms (which are attached to this message): (1) the Emergency Application for Alternative Ballot; (2) the Designated Agent Form; and (3) the Certification of Designated Agent Form.
What if the poll worker doesn’t find my name in the book when I go to vote?
If the poll worker cannot find your name on the list of registered voters, ask them to look at the list of “inactive voters.” Voters who have not voted for a few elections, or who did not receive or respond to official election mailings have been placed on a list of “inactive voters.” The act of voting will be sufficient to transfer your name from the ”inactive” to the “active” list. If your name cannot be found on either list, and if you are sure you are at the correct polling place – ask for a provisional ballot. Federal law requires that you be provided with a provisional ballot in such a case. Do not leave the polls without casting a vote!
What if my right to vote is challenged on Election Day? What if someone says I’m not competent to vote?
In Pennsylvania, we have only 3 qualifications for a person to register and to vote. The individual must be:
Pennsylvania law does not restrict the right to vote of people who happen to have developmental, mental health, or physical disabilities. In rare instances, Courts issue orders depriving people of the right to vote. But, so far, “electors” in Pennsylvania cannot be challenged on competence, ability or worthiness to vote.
Persons convicted of felonies (or any other crime) are eligible to vote! Only individuals currently incarcerated in penal institutions for felony convictions are denied the right to vote.
Procedures for an Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot
The Pennsylvania Legislature created procedures for voters to vote by absentee ballot when circumstances prevented the voter from applying by the regular deadline of one week prior to Election Day. If you become physically disabled or ill between 5:00 P.M. on the Friday before Election Day and 8:00 P.M. on Election Day or if you find out after 5:00 P.M. on the Friday before Election Day that you will be absent from your municipality of residence on Election Day because of your business, duties or occupation, you can receive an emergency absentee ballot if you complete and file with the court of common pleas in the county where you are registered to vote an emergency application or a letter or other signed document, which includes the same information as that provided on the emergency application.
Obtaining an Emergency Absentee Ballot If You Are Not Able to Appear in Court
If you are not able to appear in court to receive the ballot, you can designate, in writing, a representative to deliver the absentee ballot to you and return your completed absentee ballot to the county board of elections.
If you are not able to appear in court or obtain assistance from an authorized representative, the judge will direct a deputy sheriff of the county to deliver the absentee ballot to you if you are at a physical location within the county.
You will need to prepare three forms (which are attached to this message):
Who can I call on Election Day if I’m prevented from exercising my right to vote?
Call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683)
Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania
Voting is your right. Don’t leave the polls without voting!
Your vote matters — but only if you use it!
Get ready to exercise the right to vote – and to protect your neighbors’ legal franchise to participate in the Presidential Election – by having these important resources at hand.
National voter information / voting problems hotline
Check your Pennsylvania voter registration information
Find your polling place
Pennsylvania Voters are NOW required by law to present photo identification in order to vote.
Don’t have ID? We can help!
How to Get Your No-Cost Penn DOT Voter ID
Join the Protect Our Vote Coalition at the Voter ID Collective Action
Wednesday, April 18th at NOON
Downtown DMV License Center
708 Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh 15222
Information contact: Celeste Taylor
412-670-0937 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.everybodyvote.org
Who should come?
All defenders of voting rights to including those who need ID or want to help people get ID. Please direct or help transport people in need of ID to this event. We also will need volunteers & supporters to assist, observe, and talk with people who are coming to the DMV center in order to get the free photo ID they will need in order to vote
What if I don’t have those items to get my ID? Please come anyway! Volunteers will be onsite to talk with people who are coming to the PennDOT/DMV center to get the free photo ID they will need in order to vote.
What do I need to get the free non-driver photo ID? Please turn sheet over for detailsTo vote under the new law, you must present one of the following forms of ID:
A current Pennsylvania driver’s license, or one that expired after Nov. 2011 A current Pennsylvania photo ID issued by PennDOT, or one that expired after November 2011 A current U.S. Passport A U.S. military or Pennsylvania National Guard photo ID
NOTE: it must include “designation that the expiration date is indefinite” A U.S. government-issued photo ID (agency employee, armed services, etc.) A current employee photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania county, city, township, town, or borough A current student photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania college or university
NOTE: only ID’s containing an expiration date can be used A current photo ID issued by a licensed nursing, personal care or assisted living facility (note that only ID’s containing an expiration date can be used)
For any of these ID’s, the person has to look like the person in the picture, and the name on the ID has to “substantially conform” to the name on the voter registration record. Both of these may be problems for some people.
If the person does not have one of these ID’s, they will have to obtain an ID from Penn DOT. In order to do so, they must produce an original Social Security card and one of the following types of identification: An original birth certificate that has a “raised seal.”(can’t use a photocopy or a hospital registration) U.S. citizenship certificate Naturalization certificate Valid U.S. passport.
In addition to the identification documents described above, the applicant for photo ID must present two forms of proof of residency from the following list: Tax records Lease agreement Mortgage documents W-2 form Current gun/firearm permit Current utility bill.
Department of Transportation (also known as DMV) webpage at http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/voter/voteridlaw.shtml
If you know of someone who currently does not have one of the accepted forms of ID listed above and will likely have difficulty obtaining an ID, or if you have any questions about the voter ID law or the legal challenge to it, please contact:
American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) at 717-238-2258 or voterID@aclupa.org.
You can also check out their webpage at http://www.aclupa.org/voterid
Below you will find a compilation of media coverage of the Voter Suppression Bill (HB 934), particularly highlighting the tremendous work done by Protect Our Vote coalition members and allies.
Confusion, lines in quest for voter IDs
Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/22/12
Prospective voters lined up for free photo IDs, but some almost left empty handed over bad information.
Quest for free ID from Pa. has its complications
WHYY 91 FM, 3/22/12
Advocates opposing the new law say the state isn’t actually ready to come through on this promise. They say PennDOT hasn’t adequately trained its staff to handle the potential influx of voters …
Group Rallies in Philadelphia To Publicize, Criticize Pennsylvania’s New Voter ID Law
KYW Newsradio 1060, 3/21/12
A voters’ rights group held a rally today at a Penndot driver’s licensing center in center city Philadelphia, to get the word out about the new voter ID law. “It is the state’s responsibility to fulfill the promises it made when it passed this law,” says Philadelphia city commissioner Stephanie Singer, who thinks that thousands of Philadelphians could be affected by the new law which requires citizens to present a photo ID in order to vote …
Taylor has worked on voting rights, GOTV, voter registration and voter protection campaigns since 1999 at national, state and local levels. She works with a coalition that includes dozens of organizations around the state including not only civil rights groups like the NAACP and League of Young Voters, but also the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. The County Commissioners are not an advocacy organization. They are an association of county government administrators who are on the frontlines of every election, staffing the polls and dealing with all the problems that occur on election days. And they oppose this new law.
But Gov. Corbett believes he has signed a “law of prevention” against voter fraud.
But voter fraud “just isn’t happening,” says Taylor. “I’m just so upset because I’ve seen how hard it is to get people to participate in this democracy and utilize the vote as their voice. Between the Citizens United ruling and corporations now having so much power — and now voter ID laws superceding what people’s rights are — so many people just don’t get it.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/8/12
[T]he Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU, said Wednesday night they would challenge the measure in court if it becomes law … Aside from Democrats and a handful of Republicans, opponents of the measure include civil liberties organizations, labor unions, the AARP, the NAACP, and the county officials who would be tasked with implementing it. The counties, in fact, have warned legislators that mandating the extra step of checking IDs will only lead to long lines and frustration at the polls – particularly in the relatively heavy turnouts that mark presidential elections.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/8/12
Moments after the bill passed, Senate Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania separately said they intend to file legal challenges to the photo identification requirement. Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, said his caucus will go to court unless the bill is changed in the House to allay the concerns of Democrats. “If that does not happen, we will find ourselves in court to find some way to prevent this law from taking place and taking effect,” Mr. Williams said. Witold Walczak, legal director for the state’s ACLU chapter, said his organization also plans to challenge the law to prevent it affecting an election … Walczak, of the ACLU, said implementing a new identification requirement in November, with presidential candidates on the ballot, would make the elections unworkable. “If this is allowed to go forward, and especially if it’s being implemented for the first time at the general election, Pennsylvania will be the Florida of 2000 in this election,” he said.
KYW 1060 (Philadelphia), 3/8/12
The relatively close vote in the senate broke down largely along party lines with Republicans like Dominic Pileggi of Chester, the senate majority leader, favoring the voter photo ID requirement … The bill was already passed by the House, but was amended in the Senate… so it must go back to the House, which is expected to take it up again next week. It’s intended to be in effect for the November election, but opponents are already talking court challenges.
Scranton Times-Tribune, 3/8/12
Senior organizations have criticized the bill. “The truth is, the older you are, the more likely you won’t have an ID,” said Ivonne Gutierrez Bucher, Pennsylvania State Director for AARP. Individuals older than 65 are more likely to lack the birth certificate necessary to obtain a government-issued ID because they were born before recording births was standard procedure, she added.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/8/12
Three Republican senators joined Democrats yesterday in opposing the bill. They are Mary Jo White, R-Venango County; Jane Earll, R-Erie; and Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County. Opponents say little fraud has been proved and the legislation has the potential to prevent some people from voting. “This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Johnstown.
Pottstown Mercury, 3/8/12
(AP) Labor unions, counties, civil liberties advocates, good government advocates, the AARP and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also objected to the bill, which passed the Republican-controlled chamber 26-23. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett supports the measure; it is expected to receive approval within days from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which passed a stricter version of the bill last year. The American Civil Liberties Union immediately said it was preparing a legal challenge; Senate Democrats said they would sue if the bill becomes law.
Carlisle Sentinel, 3/8/12
As the various appropriations committees continue to grapple with the state budget, a noble and laudable goal, the Senate — the only chamber in session this week — spent most of Monday and Tuesday debating amendments to the Voter ID bill … Republicans, of course, are claiming that it’s necessary to ensure the integrity of the process. Statistically, the instances of voter fraud are on par with the instances of humans contracting leprosy from armadillos.
WETM 18 (Elmira, NY), 3/8/12
Republicans passed the bill 26-23 Wednesday over the protests of Democrats, civil liberties advocates, the AARP and the NAACP … County commissioners warn that it’ll lengthen Election Day lines at many polling places and do nothing to improve ballot security.
NBC 10 (Philadelphia), 3/8/12
(AP) Labor unions, counties, civil liberties advocates, labor unions, the AARP and NAACP also objected to the bill, which passed the Republican-controlled chamber, 26-23, after several hours of debate.
Westmoreland Times, 3/8/12
Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason released the following statement applauding the Pennsylvania Senate for passing voter identification legislation that would ensure fair elections – House Bill (HB) 934. “The Pennsylvania Senate took an important step to promote the integrity of our electoral process by passing critical Voter ID legislation. The bottom line is that voter ID is a commonsense reform that strengthens a fundamental pillar of our democracy by ensuring that every single vote that is legally cast, legally counts,” Chairman Gleason said.
Beaver County Times, 3/8/12
Labor unions, counties, civil liberties advocates, good government advocates, the AARP and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also objected to the bill, which passed the Republican-controlled chamber, 26-23. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett supports the measure; it is expected to receive approval within days from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which passed a stricter version of the bill last year. The American Civil Liberties Union immediately said it was preparing a legal challenge; Senate Democrats said they would sue if the bill becomes law.
The Grio, 3/7/12
The legislation still must be approved by the state’s House and then signed by Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican. Corbett’s office told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Wednesday “he would sign it,” if the measures reaches his desk. In most states, African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to have driver’s licenses than white voters. So if minority voters don’t obtain photo identification by Election Day, this could complicate the campaign of President Obama, who will almost certainly need to win Pennsylvania to be re-elected. Liberal groups are already promising to file suit against the legislation if it becomes law.
Those who have come out against the bill feel that it would discourage certain groups from voting, such as minorities, the disabled, and the elderly. Additionally, they feel that there is no evidence of the “voter impersonation” that the bill is attempting to decrease. Opponents of the voter ID bill include Democrats, AARP, NAACP, and civil liberties supporters. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania also opposes the bill, saying that it would create much longer lines on Election Day.
Delaware County Daily Times, 3/7/12
(PA Independent) “This is voter suppression. It is an unfunded mandate that will be passed along to the cities, towns and taxpayers of the Commonwealth,” said Mike Brunelle, executive director of Service Employees International Union Pennsylvania State Council, which represents 80,000 nurses and health-care workers across the state. Brunelle joined the coalition in unveiling a petition with more than 13,000 signatures asking senators to vote against the legislation … “This bill adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the voting process that would significantly disenfranchise older adults, those with disabilities and those from economically disadvantaged or diverse populations,” said Ivonne Gutierrez Bucher, state director for AARP, which advocates for people older than 50.
Allentown Morning Call, 3/7/12
Within minutes of the vote, Senate Democrats and the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union separately announced that they’re planning to sue. AARP and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also objected to the bill. “We’re assembling a litigation team,” said Andy Hoover, ACLU’s Harrisburg lobbyist.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Early Returns, 3/7/12
The PG’s Karen Langley has more on the bill’s details here, and listened to the four hours of floor debate and dozens of rejected Democratic amendments offered this afternoon. She now reports that Democrats and civil-rights advocates are preparing a legal challenge to the soon-to-be law.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/7/12
Opponents say little fraud has been proven and the legislation has the potential to prevent some people from voting. Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, called the legislation the “voter suppression bill.”
Fox 43 (South Central PA), 3/7/12
A coalition of civic groups, including “Protect our Vote,” the AARP and several labor unions rallied against the bill, calling it “unnecessary” and a “waste of taxpayer funds.” Members of these groups fear the measure will discourage voters without government issued IDs, particularly the poor, elderly and disabled, from exercising their right to vote.
WHYY 91 FM (Philadelphia), 3/7/12
The voter ID bill that cleared the Pennsylvania Senate Wednesday would require photo identification issued by PennDOT, an accredited Pennsylvania college or university, or a Pennsylvania care facility. Bowser said it’s not uncommon to see court challenges to voter ID laws – something that’s already been threatened by at least one civil rights group in Pennsylvania. She said the voter ID is a polarizing issue.
Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/7/12
(AP) Republicans were pressing the bill Wednesday over the protests of Democrats, civil liberties advocates, county commissioners, labor unions, the AARP and the NAACP.
Choshocton Tribune, 3/7/12
(AP) Labor unions, counties, civil liberties advocates, labor unions, the AARP and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also objected to the bill, which passed the Republican-controlled chamber, 26-23, after several hours of debate … A legal challenge is pending to a similar law passed last year in Wisconsin, and the ACLU said it will pursue one in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Weekly, 3/7/12
As we’ve reported in the past, several local, state and national organizations have vocally protested this bill, including Project H.O.M.E., the Committee of Seventy, Equality PA, the NAACP, the Brennan Center, the SEIU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, among others. Equality PA wrote in a recent email that Voter ID “will particularly affect non-drivers (senior citizens who no longer drive, persons with disabilities, and residents of urban communities who travel by public transit) and could be especially restrictive to members of the Transgender community. Also recognize that the challenge of securing a non-driver photo ID card from PennDOT will be costly, difficult, and, for some, impossible.” Project H.O.M.E. called the legislation the “voter suppression bill,” which has been repeated on both the House and Senate floors during debate.
Yahoo! News, 3/7/12
Democrats intensely oppose the bill, as do a number of civic organizations such as the NAACP, AARP, and labor unions. As the AP report mentions, labor unions believe the bill will discourage many groups who do not have valid photo identification at their disposal from heading to the polls.
Capitol Ideas, 3/7/12
The proposal has the backing of leaders in the Republican-controlled House and of Gov. Tom Corbett, meaning it could be at least partly in place when Pennsylvanians head to the polls for the April 24 primary. With control of the White House, Congress and even the state’s Legislature on the line this year, the bill is subject to a partisan tug of war. Democrats, organized labor, the NAACP and the AARP oppose it.
Cheltenham Citizens Call, 3/7/12
Marian Schneider, consulting attorney for The Advancement Project, called the legislators’ decision “a very disappointing vote given all of the constituents that opposed the bill. I think that this measure will cost far more than is anticipated and will, indeed, disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters.”
Waynesboro Herald-Mail, 3/6/12
Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioners Chairman David Keller said he would prefer the provisions go into effect after the 2012 election season … The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania opposes the bill, which it warns could create longer Election Day lines at polling places. In a letter to lawmakers, the association also said county commissioners have not heard allegations of voter impersonation from voters or poll workers.
Delaware County Daily Times, 3/6/12
(AP) Democrats intensely oppose it, as do the AARP, labor unions, civil liberties advocates and the NAACP, and accused Republicans of working to suppress the votes of the elderly, minorities, the poor and the disabled ahead of a presidential election. Republicans pointed to the wide use of photo IDs for things like prescription drugs or boarding airplanes and public polls that support such a requirement.
WFMZ 69 (Lehigh Valley), 3/6/12
A bill that would require Pennsylvania voters show certain photo identification is advancing in the state Legislature, even though Democrats are calling it a voter suppression attempt.
Philadelphia Weekly, 3/6/12
Local groups like Project H.O.M.E. and the Committee of Seventy have argued against the bill, saying it disenfranchises voters. It’s minority and elderly voters who will be most affected by the legislation, as they, more often than whites, do not have photo ID. The NAACP has called the proposal racist, and vows to take it to court if enacted. Equality Pennsylvania has been urging a backlash to the bill in the LGBT community, too.
WHYY 91 FM (Philadelphia), 3/6/12
It’s a lot of work to steal a handful of votes, but – and this is the important point – requiring voter ID at polling places would do nothing to prevent this kind of fraud. I don’t like to be partisan, and I hate to say this is a Republican move to suppress poor and minority votes, but it’s hard to read this initiative any other way.
Allentown Morning Call, 3/6/12
Democrats, organized labor, the NAACP and the AARP oppose it … Pileggi said voters had become accustomed to showing photo identification to do everything from driving a car to purchasing prescriptions and boarding an airplane, so one more request for identification shouldn’t be a problem. Unlike those activities, which are privileges, “voting is a right,” said Bonita Hoke, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “If you meet the eligibility requirements [for voting], you shouldn’t have to provide identification at all.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/6/12
Opponents – including Democratic legislators, civil libertarians, the AARP, and the NAACP – contend that the measure, championed by Republicans in a GOP-dominated legislature, is a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the vote of traditionally Democratic constituencies. They echo their counterparts on a national stage, who argue that a push for similar bills in legislatures across the country is aimed at skewing local, state, and presidential races in favor of Republicans.
Chester County Daily Local, 3/5/12
It may sound reasonable to require everyone to show a photo ID when voting in order to combat fraud, but in reality the Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill (HB 934) is unnecessary and a complete waste of the $11 million it is projected to cost — because there is no fraud to combat.