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What's the Fix for Texas' Voter ID Law? "Time is short" to implement a replacement
07/28/16 |
Publication Date: 
Friday, July 29, 2016 - 00:00
Excerpt: 

Voter ID in Texas violates the Voting Rights Act, and the state must develop new rules before the November election. That was the definitive statement in a majority opinion, nine to six, issued by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. But don't put your driver's license away quite yet. While the court has ruled that the current state rules are in the wrong, no one knows what the replacement rules will look like. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said, "We don't know very much. The takeaway is that we don't know what to do." ...

The appeals court found that it's not just that the current law has left over 600,000 registered voters in Texas without the right documentation to exercise their constitutional right: it's that the rules have a disproportionate impact on minority voters. In total, 4.5% of all registered voters in the state lack a suitable government-issued photo ID; however, that figure drops to 2% for white residents, rises to 6% for Hispanic residents, and a startling 8% among African-Americans voters. Moreover, the ruling castigated the state for its "lackluster educational efforts" in informing voters on what they needed. ...

The more pressing question for DeBeau­voir and her fellow county clerks is when the interim rules will be decided. If the court is to fashion new processes in time for November, "time is short," the appeals justices wrote. Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins on Oct. 24, but with training of election judges scheduled to begin in September, DeBeauvoir said, "We really need the trial court to give us that advice by Labor Day.”

Do Voter ID Laws Really Prevent Election Fraud?
07/27/16 |
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 05:00
Excerpt: 

The thought of someone casting a fraudulent vote, whether via impersonation, voting multiple times, or voting when ineligible, is very disturbing. But study after study has shown that it’s extremely rare, and doesn’t have a statistical effect on elections. These aren’t the days of Tammany Hall, or even Daly-era Chicago.

We do know, however, that voter identification laws have an impact on elections, and in some cases the percentage spread is enough that it could change the outcome of the election, as the [Government Accountability Office] found in its research.

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Voting as a Student

As a student, you have a constitutional right to register and vote in the place you truly consider to be “home” — whether that’s your parents’ house, your apartment, or your dorm room. But before you make the important decision about where to vote, make sure you know the voting rules (and sometimes consequences) of registering to vote in that state.

More Info On Student Voting

Pennsylvania Election Info

Upcoming Elections in Your State

2016 General Election: Tuesday, November 8

  • Voter Registration Deadline: October 9

For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of State website.

Polling Place Hours

Election Day: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Early voting is not available in Pennsylvania.

 

How to Find Your Polling Place

Visit the Pennsylvania Depart of State's Polling Place Locator website.  You may also visit Vote411’s Polling Place Finder website.

Note: Rides to the Polls are available in Allegheny County 412-434-0919.

REGISTER TO VOTE HERE

Already registered? Verify your voter registration status.


Registration Deadlines 

You must register 30 days before the election.

Primary election registration deadline: March 28, 2016
General election registration deadline: October 11, 2016

If you send your registration in by mail, the postmark must be on or by the deadline.

How to Check if You Are Registered

Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Visit the Pennsylvania Department of State's Voting Information Center website.

How to Register

You can register to vote online. Note that if you do not have a driver's license or state ID card, you will be asked to upload a photo of your signature with your application. If that doesn't work for you, you can fill in your information online and download your filled-out registration form, which you will need to print, sign and mail to your county elections office. For more information on registration, visit the Office of Elections Voter Registration page. This web page also includes other information on registration, such as locations where you can register in person to vote.

Registration Eligibility

To register to vote in Pennsylvania, a person must be:

  • A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the next primary, special, municipal, or general election;
  • A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which he or she is registering for at least 30 days before the next primary, special, municipal, or general election; and
  • At least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.

Once a person has registered to vote, he or she is not required to register again unless either residence, name, or political party affiliation has changed.

Identification Required for Registration

Generally, identification is not needed to register to vote in Pennsylvania.  However, the registration form requires an applicant's Pennsylvania driver’s license number, PennDOT Identification number or the last four digits of the applicant's social security number.  If an applicant does not have one of these, he or she may check the “I do not have a PA driver’s license or PennDOT ID card of a Social Security number” box at the end of the Identification section of the registration form.

If You Want to Vote Early

There is no early voting in Pennsylvania.

If You Want to Vote Absentee

The following people may vote for any office in any election by absentee ballot as long as they are registered to vote:

  • A person who is or may be in the military service of the United States, regardless of whether at the time of voting the person is present in the election district of residence or in Pennsylvania and regardless of whether he or she is registered to vote;
  • A spouse or dependent residing with or accompanying a person in the military service of the United States and who expects on Election Day to be absent from his or her municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.);
  • A member of the Merchant Marine and his/her spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying the Merchant Marine, who expect on Election Day to be absent from Pennsylvania or the municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.);
  • A member of a religious or welfare group attached to and serving with the armed forces and his/her spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying him or her, who expect on Election Day to be absent from Pennsylvania or the municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.);
  • An individual who, because of the elector's duties, occupation or business (including leaves of absence for teaching, vacations and sabbatical leaves), expects on Election Day to be absent from his/her municipality of residence during the entire period the polls are open for voting and the spouse and dependents of such electors who are residing with or accompanying the elector and for that reason also expect to be absent from his/her municipality during the entire period the polls are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.);
  • A qualified war veteran elector who is bedridden or hospitalized due to illness or physical disability if the elector is absent from the municipality of his residence and unable to attend his/her polling place because of such illness or disability, regardless of whether the elector is registered to vote;
  • A person who, because of illness or physical disability, is unable to attend his/her polling place or to operate a voting machine and obtain assistance by distinct and audible statements (Note: A disabled elector may be placed on a permanently disabled absentee file.);
  • A spouse or dependent accompanying a person employed by Pennsylvania or the federal government, in the event that the employee's duties, occupation or business on Election Day require him/her to be absent from Pennsylvania or the municipality of residence during the entire period the polls are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.);
  • A county employee who expects that his Election Day duties relating to the conduct of the election will prevent the employee from voting; and 
  • A person who will not attend a polling place on Election Day because of the observance of a religious holiday.

Voters must provide driver’s license number, PennDOT ID number, the last 4 digits of Social Security Number, or a copy of an accepted photo ID when applying for an absentee ballot.  First-time voters must supply an accepted ID.

Download and print an Absentee Ballot Application and send it to your County Election Office. Importantly, unless you are a military or overseas voter or have an emergency arise after 5 p.m. the Tuesday before Election Day, your absentee ballot must be received at the county election office by 5 p.m. the Friday before Election Day to be counted.

In Pennsylvania, the County Board of Elections must receive your application for absentee ballot no later than 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election.  In emergency situations (such as an unexpected illness or disability) you can submit an Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot, which must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.  The Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot must be notarized prior to submission.  Completed emergency absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

In emergency situations (such as an unexpected illness or disability, or absence from the county on Election Day, that was not known before the deadline to apply for an Absentee Ballot) you can submit an Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot, which must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. The Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot must be notarized prior to submission. Completed emergency absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

If you become physically disabled or ill between 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day and 8 p.m. on Election Day or if you find out after 5 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 (Important Note: This is a different form than that used for the Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot when the emergency occurs between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Friday before Election Day) or a letter or other signed document, which includes the same information as that provided on the emergency application. 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. You must fill out a form granting this authorization, and your representative must fill out a form accepting the authorization. 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. Emergency Absentee Ballot Applications from voters who experience an emergency after 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day must be submitted to the Court of Common Pleas no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Identification Requirements to Register to Vote

As noted above, identification is not needed to register to vote in Pennsylvania. However, the registration form requires an applicant's Pennsylvania driver’s license number, PennDOT Identification number, or the last four digits of the applicant's social security number.  If an applicant does not have one of these, he or she may check the “I do not have a PA driver’s license or PennDOT ID card of a Social Security number” box at the end of the Identification section of the registration form.

Identification Requirements to Cast a Ballot

A state court in 2014 held that Pennsylvania’s voter identification law violated the state constitution, so currently the requirements of that law do not apply in Pennsylvania.

Only voters voting in an election district for the first time must provide one of the following forms of photo identification:

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID Card;
  • ID issued by any Commonwealth agency;
  • ID issued by the U.S. Government;
  • U.S. Passport;
  • U.S. Armed Forces ID;
  • Student ID; or
  • Employee ID.

If you do not have any of these forms of photo identification, you can provide the following documents if they contain your name and current address:

  • Confirmation of residence issued by the County Voter Registration Office;
  • Non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth;
  • Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government;
  • Firearm permit;
  • Current utility bill;
  • Current bank statement;
  • Current paycheck; or
  • Government check.

If you have registered and voted in the same election district before, you do not need to show identification to vote.  You simply need to sign your name, which will then be compared with the signature in the district register.

Moving at Least 30 Days Before an Election

You must change your voter registration by submitting a new Voter Registration Mail Application form.  Simply select the box that says “Change of Address.”  Note that in order to vote at your new precinct's polling place, this registration form must be submitted by the voter registration deadline.  If you missed the deadline and moved within the state, though, you can still vote at your old polling place (see below).

Moving Less Than 30 Days Before an Election 

You must vote at your former residence's polling location.  When you arrive to vote, tell the local Election Official of your change of address so that you can vote correctly at your new address in the future.

Moving More than 30 Days Before an Election

If you have moved more than 30 days before an election but did not change your address with Voter Registration Officials, you must vote at the polling place of your old residence, where you are registered to vote.  However, you may only vote once at the original polling place and you must abide by special procedures, called “fail-safe voting.”  These procedures include:

  • If you have moved within the same county, inform the Election Officials at the polling place that you have moved and would like to change your registration by filling out an affirmation that states your new address;
  • You will be permitted to vote at the old polling place based on your previous residence, but the County Voter Registration Commission will update its records after the election;
  • You will receive a new voter certification card in the mail that will show your new address and polling place; and
  • You will not be able to vote again at your old polling place (unless, of course, it also serves as your new residence).

Moving to a Different County 

You must inform the Election Officials at your old polling place that you have moved to a different county and would like to have your registration changed.  The Election Officials will let you vote at the old polling place based on your former residence, but they will require you to complete an affirmation declaring your new address and county of residence.  After the election, the respective county voter registration commission will update their records.  You will receive by mail a voter certification card from the new county.  You cannot vote in your old county again unless you establish a residence there again and re-register to vote.

Military and overseas citizens can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), also known as Standard Form 76, to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot. (To register to vote, military and overseas citizens can email ST-UOCAVAApp@pa.gov to request a voter registration application, and to receive an absentee ballot application, military and overseas citizens can email stsvcuocavaabs@pa.gov.  Writing to either email address will result in the FPCA being sent to you.  However, the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) is not included with these versions of the FPCA.  To obtain an FWAB, see below.)

Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) Pennsylvania specific page with deadlines and other information, services and forms for military and overseas voters.

Military and overseas citizens can send and receive voting materials by email.  If you wish to use the email option, you must indicate this on your FPCA.  Military and overseas voters may request an absentee ballot application via email at stsvcuocavaabs@pa.gov.

Military and overseas citizens voting by absentee ballot must have their ballots postmarked on or before the day before Election Day, or if returned electronically then by 11:59 p.m. on the day before Election Day.  The ballot must be received by 5 p.m. on the 7th day after the election.

Military and overseas citizens can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) if they are concerned about receiving their printed ballot in time to return the ballot by the deadline.  The FWAB is a blank ballot on which voters write in their choices.

Military and overseas citizens can also use the FWAB to register to vote and to apply for the absentee ballot, all in one step.  Please note that FWAB voter registrations must be received by the voter registration deadline.  For specific instructions, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Pennsylvania-specific page or email the Pennsylvania Department of State at  ST-UOCAVAQues@pa.gov

Voting rights are restored automatically after release from prison.  People on probation or parole are also eligible to vote. People who have had their voting rights restored will need to re-register to vote in accordance with the registration requirements and procedures noted above.

For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Secretary of State website, or Pennsylvania's brochure on the Voting Rights of Convicted Felons, Convicted Misdemeanants and Pretrial Detainees.

FAQ

Electionary

Top Issues to Field **not yet updated since 2014**

For more information for voters with disabilities, visit the National Disability Rights Network’s voting resource center.

For more information for student voters, visit the Pennsylvania Student Voting Guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Information provided by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

2016 Election Information for your state