VIDEO: Officials hope photo ID bill will galvanize voters in Pa. primaries

City officials met to discuss the impact of Pennsylvania’s recently-passed voter identification bill on Tuesday’s primary elections, cautioning voters that though ID may be requested, it is not mandatory until November.

“The reason that we’re here is because there’s a lot of confusion this year,” District Attorney Seth Williams said. “First and foremost, it’s important for voters to know someone might ask them for photo ID tomorrow.”

“This is just a dry run, a soft roll-out. If you don’t have [ID], you still get to vote, it’s just that we’re trying to educate everybody about the law that will be in place in November but is not in place right now,” Stephanie Singer of the City Commissioner’s office continued.

Sixty assistant district attorneys will be dispatched with county detectives Tuesday to root out and combat voter fraud and intimidation, while Committee of Seventy volunteers from a coalition of 76 organizations will be on hand to address any polling place problems and to distribute literature about the impending requirements mandated by the law.

Singer said that, because of the state law’s recent passage, her office will not be able to keep a systematic tally of the number of voters that lack photo ID or need help obtaining one. “This bill was passed March 12. We were already halfway through our coworker training and decided, rather than create a special training forum, we would educate our workers as planned,” Singer said.

The City Commissioner is working with different agencies to determine other ways of measuring where the need for educational outreach is most urgent. “We’re getting data from the Department of State and, I hope, PennDOT to better understand who has photo identification,” Singer said. “We will be asking City Council for the money to do surveys to pinpoint where resources should be dedicated to make sure every Philadelphian can vote in November.”

Officials conceded that tomorrow’s turnout may be lower than average due to confusion caused by the not-yet-implemented requirements, but also expressed hope that the controversy will draw more attention to the importance of voting and help push people to the polls in November’s general election.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure there are not serious problems,” said Zack Stalberg of the Committee of Seventy. “But on the flip side, this is also a great opportunity – voting here and around the country is at embarrassingly low levels and 2012 is the year that we can use this issue to drive it up.”

In their own words

District Attorney Seth Williams:

Stephanie Singer, City Commissioner Chairperson:

Zack Stalberg, Committee of Seventy:

By the numbers

Here are some phone numbers you might find handy during any city election.

Voter fraud, intimidation or rights violations should be reported to the
District Attorney’s Office at 215-686-9641, 9643, 9644 or 9884. Victims or witnesses should also notify the office of the City Commissioner at 215-686-3461.

Problems with polling places and election-related questions can be
directed to the Committee of Seventy 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) or at 215-557-3600.

Those with questions or problems regarding the following issues are encouraged to dial the below numbers:

>> Voter registration or eligibility: 215-686-1590

>> Voting machine malfunction: 215-686-7800

>> Election board: 215-686-3469

>> Absentee ballots and poll workers: 215-686-3943

>> Missing election materials: 215-686-1530, 1531 or 1532

>> Watcher certificates: 215-686-1530

>> Philadelphia city services: 311 or 215-686-1776

>> Court of Common Please foreign language interpreters: 1-866-874-3972 or 215-686-1560

>> Democratic City Committee: 215-241-7800

>> Republican City Committee: 215-561-0650

>> Central Election Court: 215-686-7357

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