Something is different about this upcoming election than any other in US history, and it does not have to do with the candidates.
It has to do with the electorate. Eight states are signing strict voter identification laws into effect, including Pennsylvania. SU students are among the affected voters.
The law was passed by Republicans with the support of Gov. Tom Corbett. When Corbett approved the law, his administration estimated that only about one percent of voters will be affected by this change.
After the law was passed, research was done and it was found that 758,939 voters lack a valid driver’s license or card issued to non-drivers, which is 9 percent of voters.
The law was passed in an effort to fight voter fraud, although there is no documented case of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.Those findings and state Rep. Mike Turzai saying, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,” caused uproar among opponents accusing Republicans of trying to disenfranchise poor, senior, student and minority voters.
The NAACP held a rally on July 24 to protest the law on the day before the beginning of a lawsuit brought by the Advancement Project, a Washington-based civil rights organization; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
On Aug. 15 Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson upheld the law, and an appeal has been filed since. The state Supreme Court agreed to expedite the appeal, and arguments from both sides will be heard by six justices on Sept. 13, just 54 days before the presidential election.
If the law remains in effect going into the election, then there are some things that SU students need to know.
First, with the new voter ID law, voters must present a driver’s license; non-driver photo ID, available from the Transportation Department; a valid U.S. passport; current local, state or federal government employee ID, with specified expiration dates; current military ID; photo ID, with an expiration date, from a licensed care facility or current student identification, with a specified expiration date, from an accredited Pennsylvania college or university.
SU students with no other form of ID, particularly out-of-state students residing in Pennsylvania, could use their school-distributed ID card if it has an expiration date. Most SU ID cards do not currently include an expiration date.
That is why, thanks to cooperation between Vice President of Student Affairs Roger Serr, who determined the process for undergraduate students; Associate Provost & Dean of Graduate Studies Tracy Schoolcraft, who determined the process for graduate students; Vice President of Information Technologies & Services Rick Ruth, who provided the backend configuration and programming necessary to print the expiration date on the card and Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Peter Gigliotti, who designed the cards; all new SU ID cards will include an expiration date.
Students who currently have an SU ID card that lacks an expiration date can go to the SU Police Office located in the Reed Operations Center and visit the ID room to obtain one with an expiration date. If a student does not have a Pennsylvania driver’s license, and needs a student ID for the purpose of voting, it will be provided for free and the student just has to turn in his or her old ID card according to Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police Cytha Grissom. If a student already has a driver’s license, but still wants a new ID with an expiration date as a replacement, they will have to pay a $10 fee.
The ID Room has limited hours. It operates 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays; 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 3:30-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 1-5 p.m. on Fridays. The ID Room is not available on weekends.
Many people may not be aware of the new law and all of its stipulations. SU is striving to help students keep up with the requirements of the law and provide them with access to proper ID. It is up to voters to keep informed and get what they need to vote. More information about the new law is available from the Pennsylvania Department of State, at 1-877-868-3772 during weekday business hours, or online at www.votespa.com.
Remember, Oct. 9 is the registration deadline for voting, and Election Day is Nov. 6. Do not forget to bring your ID.