Would [New] Library IDs Satisfy PA Voter ID Law?

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As I’m sure already know, you now need a non-expired photo ID to vote this November in the state of Pennsylvania. What types of ID are accepted, you ask?

  1. US Government (Passport)
  2. Commonwealth of PA (DL or ID Card)
  3. Licensed Nursing Homes
  4. State, Cities, and Counties Employee IDs
  5. Higher Ed Institutions (with some limitations)
  6. Military

But let’s dig into the language of #2 a bit more. Here’s the text from the law itself:


An ‘agency of the commonwealth?’ Would anybody argue that public libraries are not agencies of the commonwealth?

Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. certainly thinks they are in his state; he is currently battling their voter ID law down in Tennessee in a different way than most. Essentially, Mayor Wharton is revamping their library ID system in Memphis to include photo and expiration date, while helping get them distributed to voters before their countywide August 2nd elections.

Since he’s backed by lawyers that believe a valid library photo ID satisfies the law, he’s informing voters about the new library cards and suggesting, if they have no other ID, to use them for early voting (starting July 13th) to see if they get turned away. If so, they plan to take it to court to see who comes out on top. If Mayor Wharton wins, thousands of voters could have a much easier time obtaining photo ID (at their local library) before the November elections.

Could something like this also happen in Democratic cities like Allentown, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc.? Mayors would have to revamp their city’s library ID process, but that can’t come close to the amount of money voter ID is costing the state. And since the libraries have an apparent partnership with the state on educating the public about voter ID in Pennsylvania, wouldn’t the ultimate partnership be distributing photo IDs themselves?

The obvious advantage Memphis has with this strategy is that they have the buffer August 2nd county elections, which will obviously be enormously smaller than the November 6th Presidential. That means they can test this theory on a smaller number of people before having a judge rule on it.

But let’s say that a mayor in Pennsylvania tries it and even loses. Wouldn’t that put the final nail in the coffin proving that this photo ID law is 100% about voter suppression? Why would the Corbett administration deny potentially thousands of people from voting with a photo ID from a government agency if it actually was about voter fraud? You know, the voter fraud that Tom Corbett prosecuted zero cases of during his full six years as Pennsylvania Attorney General.

What do you think?

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8 Responses to Would [New] Library IDs Satisfy PA Voter ID Law?

  1. phillydem says:

    Having served on a local library board, I can tell you their budgets are nearly bare-bones as it is. The state has been cutting their budgets for the past few years and in our case county funding has been flat for most of a decade. If they have to spend extra money to set up photo ID library cards, it’s very doubtful many could afford it.

    But as an alternative, what about photo ID ACCESS (food stamps) debit cards? I mean the GOP is always complaining about waste, fraud and abuse in social programs. I’d think they’d want to fund and implement something like that right away.

    We could ask the federal gov’t if it’s possible to get photo ID social security cards, too.

    • Ryan says:

      Like in Memphis, I think city budgets would figure out some maneuvers to be able to pay for something like this if it means thousands more of their constituents being able to vote.

      • phillydem says:

        In small, older urban communities like where I live, they don’t have even a few extra thousand to implement this idea.

  2. Julieann Wozniak says:

    Of course, if the lawsuits against this resurgence of Jim Crow are successful, all of this becomes moot. In Florida, county elections officials are refusing to enforce Gov. Scott’s ham-handed attempt at voter disenfranchisement. Their PA equivalents should find the spine to do likewise!

  3. Jon says:

    Rich Wilkins had a post where he said he doesn’t expect a lot of election officials in Philly to enforce it. Not sure what to make of that.

    • phillydem says:

      By law, the judge of elections reigns supreme inside the polls.

    • phillydem says:

      Let me also add that the law, even though it was supposed to be for a dress rehersal, was not enforced at my local poll this past May.

  4. You are misreading the new law (understandably so, because it is difficult to follow). Under the PA Photo ID Law, only ID cards issued by the following are acceptable:

    (A) The United States Government.
    (B) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
    (C) A municipality of this Commonwealth to an employee of that municipality.
    (D) An accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.
    (E) A Pennsylvania care facility.

    This list is from the new section (z.5)(iv), which is in bold here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/2012/0/0018..HTM

    The section you cited, which includes the language “any other agency of the Commonwealth” is part of the OLD law and has been deleted (see above link). You can tell because it is in brackets.