In Montgomery County, there are almost 45,000 registered voters who do not have a PennDOT ID number that will be required to vote in the fall general election, according to a Pennsylvania Department of State comparison of voter registration rolls and PennDOT ID databases.
In March, state lawmakers approved a new voter ID bill (House Bill 934) that requires each voter to present proof of identification at every election. Sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, the law is scheduled to take effect for the Nov. 6 general election.
The law has been controversial as Democrats have challenged that it will disenfranchise voters without proper IDs while Republicans say it will fight voter fraud.
The database comparison provided this week by the Department of State shows that 91 percent of Pennsylvania's 8,232,928 registered voters have PennDOT ID numbers. Of the 758,939 voters who could not be matched between the Department of State and PennDOT databases, 22 percent, or 167,566, are inactive voters, most of whom have not voted since 2007.
Richards: County doing "everything possible" to inform voters
The number of voters without IDs "far surpasses the number that they thought," said Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards on Thursday.
"Initially, they thought it was one percent. Now it is over nine percent, which is over 700,000 registered voters, similar to the population of Montgomery County [Editor's note: 801,052, according to the 2010 census]. It is a huge amount," Richards said.
Richards said Montgomery County will hold a public meeting on the Voter ID requirements on Thursday, July 26 at the main campus of Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell.
"We are doing everything possible to make sure that all our residents are educated on this new law and make sure they know all the resources to obtain an ID if they do not have one," Richards said.
Some voters "inactive"
Of Montgomery County's 44,952 voters without PennDOT IDs, 37,645 are active and 7,307 are inactive.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of State:
One of the reasons a voter can be put on “inactive” status is if he or she has not voted in five years. A notice must then be sent asking if the voter is still at the listed address. If the voter does not respond to this notice, the voter is placed on “inactive” status. Federal and state law require keeping an “inactive voter” on the registration list until he or she has not voted in two consecutive general elections for federal office after the date of the notice.
All voters identified as not having a PennDOT ID number will be contacted by letter this summer, reminding them of the new voter ID law, what IDs are acceptable for voting purposes and how to get a free ID if they don't have one.
County election directors will also be provided with the names and addresses of voters in their counties who did not match any record in the PennDOT database.
“This thorough comparison of databases confirms that most Pennsylvanians have acceptable photo ID for voting this November,” said Carol Aichele, secretary of the Commonwealth. “This comparison takes into account only voters with PennDOT IDs, and does not include voters who may have any of the other various acceptable forms of ID.”
Such other acceptable forms include identification from accredited Pennsylvania colleges or universities, Pennsylvania care facilities, military identification, valid U.S. passports, other photo identification issued by the federal or Pennsylvania government, or employee identification issued by the federal, Pennsylvania, or a county or municipal government.
All identification used for voting must have an expiration date and be current, except for Pennsylvania driver's licenses or non-driver photo identification, which are valid for voting purposes one year past their expiration. Retired military identification with an indefinite expiration date is also valid for voting purposes.
Law called politically motivated
State , D-North Strabane, said he voted no on the bill—as did all House Democrats and three Republicans—for many reasons, one of them financial.
“I voted no because it’s going to cost $11 million to implement,” Neuman, D-North Strabane, said, adding that there isn’t even any evidence that voter fraud is happening at the polls and that "free" identification cards are provided with taxpayer dollars.
The law has continued to be a point of contention between the Republican state lawmakers who support it and Democrats who oppose it.
Speaking at a meeting of the Republican State Committee in Hershey on June 23, state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, was listing the accomplishments of the state House and Senate, when he pointed to the new Voter ID law.
"Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done," Turzai said. "First pro-life legislation—abortion facility regulations—in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. (Mitt) Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
Democratic opponents posted video of his remark, saying it showed a political motivation behind the bill.