Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Rappin' for the new Voter ID law?

That's just one of the 37 recommendations an advisory group presented to the Bucks County commissioners on Wednesday.

Rappin' for the new Voter ID law?

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Richard Coe, moderator of the advisory group, prsents recommendations to the county commissioners at their public meeting Wednesday. (Bill Reed/Staff)

The Bucks County Commissioners received 37 recommendations Wednesday to educate the public about the state’s controversial Voter ID law, ranging from distributing leaflets and training poll workers to Commissioner Vice Chairman Charley Martin making a rap video.

“I’ll write the song, Charley can rap, and Rob can hum in the background,” Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia joked, referring to Commissioner Chairman Rob Loughery.

“I’m a country western singer,” Martin responded.  

Marseglia called the state law requiring all voters to show photo ID starting in November “a joke.” But all three commissioners called it a serious issue that will affect an estimated 750,000 voters statewide and 25,000 in Bucks who do not have a driver’s license.

That’s why the commissioners formed the Bucks County Voter ID Education Advisory Group, an 11-member panel that conducted three public meetings and produced the 37 recommendations.

The top four recommendations are:

  1.  Appoint a small group of three or four persons to act as a communication channel with members of Pennsylvania Department of State to provide two-way feedback about Voter ID education efforts.
  2.  Place Dept. of State Voter ID link on county website home page (www.BucksCounty.org) in a prominent place.
  3. Revise poll worker training (including video if applicable) to include information about ID and Provisional ballot (State likely to handle).
  4. Acquire accurate leaflet materials from the Dept. of State, to distribute to all county buildings and any affiliated organization locations.

Marseglia agreed that pamphlets provided by the state should be handed out in every county office, including to visitors at the prison.

She also stressed the need to educate judges of election and poll workers.

 Training is not mandatory for poll workers, but those who attend the 1½-hour sessions are paid $10, said Deena Dean, director of the county Board of Elections and a member of the advisory group.

Martin noted that the state’s requirements for getting the photo IDs have been changing, so it’s difficult to distribute accurate information.

The Department of State will be mailing a letter to everyone who lacks a valid photo ID, he said.

The county can get the word out to thousands of residents by distributing pamphlets at next month’s Middletown Grange Fair, said Connie Borichevsky, a member of the advisory group and co-president of the county chapter of the League of Women Voters. The league would help staff a table at the fair, she said.

The list of recommendations was presented to the commissioners by Richard Coe, moderator of the group and executive director of the nonprofit group Kids Voting Southeast Pennsylvania.

Marseglia urged his group to  have young children start drawing voter ID cards with their pictures to get familiar with the requirement.

Some of the recommendations are being implemented, and others will be instituted relatively soon, Loughery said. The commissioners will study the list and discuss it at their next public meeting, on Aug. 15 at the Grange Fair.

Madeline Rawley of Doylestown, one of the residents who had urged the commissioners to form the advisory group, called the recommendations “a deep disappointment.”

“There’s only five [actions] for the county to do,” Rawley said. “They don’t amount to very much.”

The other 33 recommendations are:    

5. “Total Outreach Responsibility.” Every touch point within Bucks government needs to distribute accurate photo ID information (high/medium priority).

6. Reach out to non-government organizations to provide proper voter photo ID information (high/medium priority).

7. Create PowerPoint for use by speakers at senior center, libraries, etc. to educate voters (State Department will handle).

8.  Create a more compelling web message on county web site, for example “Without proper photo ID, you cannot vote for America’s next President” (medium priority).

9. Consider holding a press conference about effort to reach estimated 25,000 in Bucks who do not have PennDOT photo ID (medium priority).

10. Reach out to media to join in a public information campaign of public service announcements (Medium/low priority, as State Dept. is already handling this on a huge scale).

11. Utilize Social Media Facebook and Twitter (medium priority).

12. Include web based media like Patch, BC Alive in PR efforts, which is already being done (medium priority).

13. Involve foreign language media, to which State Dept. also will provide materials (medium priority).

14. Reach out to bloggers (low priority).

15. Add mailing addendum with a message template for insertion in pre-existing mailed communications (medium priority).

16. Create E-mail notification using template from Dept. of State or Bucks County (medium priority).

17. “Lobby” for a hotline between PennDOT and Dept. of State to resolve situations in a single visit (medium priority).

18 . Paid mail, which is already taking place to every household from the state (State function, medium/low priority).

19. Add voter ID link to Notify PA alerts (low priority, as this is an Emergency Message function).

20. Blurb for legislative newsletters, which ultimately falls on the state delegation (Low county priority).

21. Dedicated legislative mailing (low county priority).

22. Posters for poll locations (state is handling; no priority assigned).

23.  Kids Voting: Require all participants to show a “photo” ID in order to participate (no priority assigned; not a commissioners’ program).

24. Senior Public Assistance Housing Canvass (no priority assigned).

25. “Lobby” for possible use of Veterans ID card as a possible approved ID (low priority).

26. Speak with State Dept. about the importance of including a wider range of citizen representation on the decision-making panel that approves public service announcement concepts and media campaign (commissioners’ discretion).

27. PR Events – Recruit Bucks County luminaries (entertainment, sports, media personalities to hold PR events (low priority).

28 – Voter Registration Drive. Actively encourage voter registration with the added message about photo ID (likely is responsibility of individual political parties).

29. Develop a shared ride program for Bucks County Transport to the DMV with detailed flyers on vehicles (low priority given cost).

30.  Instruct Judges of Election to employ an expansive view of the phrase “substantially conforms” at polls (low priority).

31. “Lobby” for extended hours at 877-VOTESPA (no priority assigned -- state function).

32. Hold a “Voter ID Sunday” at PennDOT (no priority; state agency).

33. Provide messaging to municipalities to broadcast on cable and newsletters and e-mails (state will provide through Board of Elections).

34. Include ID requirements in all responses to voter registrations and absentee applications (Dena Dean is researching).

35.  Charley Martin Rap Video (no priority assigned).

36 – Voter ID Film Challenge (no priority assigned).

37. Write a Voter Ad Contest (no priority assigned).

In addition to Coe, Borichevsky and Dean, the members of the advisory group, or their representatives, were:

  • Joe Pizzo, county Republican Committee;
  • Neil Samuels, county Democratic Committee;
  • State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R);
  • State Rep. Tina Davis (D);
  • Najja Orr, county Area Agency on Aging;
  • Mary Beth Mahoney, county Mental Health/Developmental Programs;
  • Chris Edwards, county Public Information;
  • Pearline Greene, county Human Relations Council.
About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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