Thursday, August 27, 2015

PA voter ID ad campaign is back, Dems say it's misleading

The Department of State has relaunched its controversial advertising campaign to educate voters about the yet-to-be-implemented voter ID law.

PA voter ID ad campaign is back, Dems say it's misleading


The Department of State has relaunched its controversial advertising campaign to educate voters about the yet-to-be-implemented voter ID law.

Only this time, Pennsylvania taxpayers are footing the bill and some lawmakers are not happy about it.

The $1 million "Show it" ad campaign is airing statewide on TV, radio and Internet with some targeted ads to Hispanic TV and radio and black radio and some print ads in Spanish language, and other non-English newspapers, said Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman.

The funding was part of the 2013-2014 state budget, he said.

Some opponents of the law called on Secretary of State Carol Aichele to pull the "misleading" ads.

“If one individual is under the impression that they will not be permitted to vote without a photo ID and stays home on November 5, that is one person too many,” said Sen. Matt Smith (D., Allegheny).

In a letter to Aichele, Smith called the department’s action “troubling” and “confusing” and suggested that the money instead go toward advertisements that detail where and how voters can obtain free photo identification -- without mentioning identification requirements.

“As we wait for the Commonwealth Court to issue a decision on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law, a better use of taxpayer dollars would be to educate all Pennsylvanians on how they can obtain a valid photo ID without the implication of a law that is not currently – and may never be – in effect,” Smith said.

Smith also said taxpayer funds should not be used until there is a "clear and final decision" by the court on its constitutionality. “I’m disappointed that the department isn’t putting scarce state dollars to better use,” he said.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who is running for Congress, said it was just the latest effort by the Corbett administration to suppress the Democratic vote.

"When speaking of voter turnout in Philadelphia he urged his supporters to "keep it down." When trying to rig the Electoral College he complained that voters in Philadelphia had "too much influence" in elections, and he supported among the most aggressive voter-suppression bills in the nation," Leach said. "So we should be saddened, but not surprised when we see the administration continue to try to scare people who don't vote the right way from voting."

But Ruman said the Commonwealth Court judge who granted the preliminary injunction that delayed the law's implementation in November also included continued voter education in his ruling.

"We want to continue educating voters and encourage anyone who doesn’t have an ID to get one, should the law eventually be upheld," said Ruman.

He said the ads note that voters can now get a Department of State ID for voting purposes, even if they were unable to get an ID before.

Voter turnout is likely to be low in this off-year; the only statewide candidates are those in judicial retention races.

The 2012 voter ID is the subject of a state constitutional challenge that has bounced back and forth in the courts for 18 months. November will mark the fourth election or primary since the passage of legislation that registered voters will not have to produce state-approved ID at the polls.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley is expected to rule on the request for a permanent injunction later this year, though there is no specific deadline.







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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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