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Pennsylvania tells counties they ‘MUST’ ask voters for ID, downplaying court ruling


Since last week’s court ruling blocking Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, the state has appeared to be in no rush to let voters know that the law is no longer in effect for the November election, and that an ID is no longer required. Both Lean Forward and the Rachel Maddow Show (see video above) have reported on the various ways in which the Republican state administration is dragging its heels.

But in terms of reducing confusion, the instructions that the state gives to county election boards is among the most crucial pieces of the puzzle. So what has Pennsylvania told the counties since last week?

The email below, obtained by Lean Forward, was sent by the Secretary of State’s office to county election administrators last Tuesday, the day of the court’s ruling. It appears to fall far short of a clear declaration that photo ID is no longer required.

Instead, it tells local election officials they “MUST” (all caps in the original) ask voters for ID, but adds that voters “will not be required to vote by provisional ballot in the event that they do not show proof of identification”—a mixed message that appears to have the potential to cause confusion among county election administrators.

The email informs counties that an updated handout will be provided, but several county election directors that Lean Forward spoke to Tuesday said they were yet to receive the handout.

The court ruled that the ID requirement could remain in effect, but could not apply to this fall’s election. The ruling said poll workers could still ask for ID this year, but that voters who lack it can still vote, and can’t be made to cast a provisional ballot.

Here’s the full email:

Good Afternoon,

Based on the order from Commonwealth Court today, the Department offers the following guidance as you prepare for the November election:

  • The Court’s order effectively provides for another “soft rollout” for the November election.  All voters MUST be asked to show proof of identification, but they will not be required to vote by provisional ballot in the event that they do not show proof of identification.  Please use handouts, as you did in the Primary, to explain Voter ID.  The updated handout will be provided tomorrow.
  • Please note that the “first-time voter” requirements that were in place prior to September 17, 2012 will apply in the November 6 General Election.  Therefore, those voters who are required under the Help America Vote Act and/or the Pennsylvania Election Code to provide identification will still be required to provide identification at the November 6 General Election.
  • The polling place posters that were handed out at the conference (or mailed) should not be posted at polling places, but rather stored for future use, if necessary.
  • If you have already ordered the updated provisional ballot receipts and did not retain old provisional ballot receipt stock, you may implement either of the following 2 strategies:

  1. Redact the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of the new provisional ballot receipt, as shown in the attached example, which is entitled Provisional Ballot Receipt_w.redaction.
  2. Detach the provisional ballot receipt from the bar-coded portion of provisional ballot label and hand out to each voter the attached receipt, which is entitled Provisional Ballot Receipt_OLD TYPE.

  • The new voter registration and absentee ballot applications can still be utilized.  The Court’s order DOES NOT enjoin or otherwise alter the requirements of Act 18 relating to absentee balloting.  The Act 18 proof of identification requirements for absentee voters remain in effect.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether and when additional guidance would be provided to the counties.


Pennsylvania tells counties they 'MUST' ask voters for ID, downplaying court ruling