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Friday, October 19, 2012

PA voting rights advocates seek court order barring state from misleading voters

The voting rights advocates who won a delay in implementation of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law are back in court.  They’ve filed a motion asking the court to order the state to stop misleading voters about the law.

On Oct. 2, Pennsylvania was ordered to allow voters to cast their ballots on Nov. 6 even if they don’t have a photo ID.  Election officials are free to ask for the ID, but they can’t turn away voters who don’t have it.

But you’d never know that if you relied on the information being disseminated by the state – unless you read the fine print.

For example, before the court issued its order, Pennsylvania ran a campaign featuring huge billboards with a picture of a Pennsylvania driver’s license and the words "SHOW IT," in huge type.

After the court ruled that voters don’t have to “show it” after all, what did the state do?  It added the words “This election day if you have it” – in much, much smaller type.  (There’s a photo on Page 7 of the motion.)

In addition, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania:
  • Lawyers have received dozens of complaints from voters alleging that radio and television commercials from the state falsely claiming that a photo ID is required still are on the air.
  • As recently as October 11, some Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offices still were displaying posters claiming people need photo ID to vote.
  • And, according to the statement: “Last week, thousands of Pennsylvania seniors received a mailing from … a program administered by the Commonwealth's Department of Aging, that included a Department of State card about the voter ID law. The card incorrectly states: ‘Voters are required to show photo ID on Election Day.’
As we noted previously on this blog, Pennsylvania's largest utility company has compounded the problem.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania statement notes that “Pennsylvania's voting laws prohibit dissemination of false or misleading information to the electorate about voting.”
 
The motion asks the court to order the state to stop spreading the misleading information – and order the state to “publish widely the clear and unambiguous message that Photo ID is not required to vote this Election Day…”
 
The motion was brought by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Advancement Project, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter. 

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