County Dems Plan Voter ID End Run

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald

Democratic leaders in Allegheny and Montgomery counties aren’t waiting for the Voter ID issue to be settled in the courts. They’re using their power to issue photo IDs from county agencies.

In the past 24 hours, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Montgomery County Commissioners unveiled two similar plans to have county-owned senior assisted living facilities to create ID for all voters.

The law was passed in March and requires voters to present identification at the polls. Publicly owned senior homes are among the agencies permitted to print acceptable ID. The law doesn’t say that those receiving IDs from senior homes have to be residents.

And while there are many requirements to obtain photo ID from the state, the law doesn’t specify the requirements for get an ID from the county.

“The acceptable forms are those that were allowable under prior state law as proof of identification for first time voters and include non-photo identification issued by the Commonwealth, non-photo identification issued by the United States government, a firearm permit, a current utility bill, a current bank statement, a paycheck or a government check,” wrote Allegheny County in its announcement.

The law itself has bounced between state courts. It’s still uncertain whether the requirement will be in place in 2012, or whether the Pa. Commonwealth or Supreme Court will call for an injunction.

“I continually hear from voters who are having trouble securing a proper ID card to vote,” said Montco Commission Chair Josh Shapiro. “While my opposition to the Voter ID law is well-documented, I took an oath to uphold all of the laws. Tonight’s unanimous decision by our board simply ensures the rights of eligible Montgomery County voters. I realize that this does not solve the problem across the Commonwealth but it is an important step in the right direction for our constituents in Montgomery County.”

Republican Minority Commissioner Bruce Castor joined with both Montco Democrats to support the move.

“After spending more than two decades as a prosecutor,” said the former Montgomery County District Attorney, “I am all about the law.  The Pennsylvania Voter ID law permits this course of action, I believe we are following the law and making it as easy as possible to obtain voter ID.”

It’s a clever way to exploit a loophole in the law, and it has earned a frosty reception from the Corbett administration according to WGAL8 – but there are currently no plans to stop the counties from printing IDs.

Allegheny and Montgomery are the second and third most populous Pa. counties (behind Philadelphia). They’re also two blue spots on the electoral map; Democrats are counting on strong turnout in both to boost their candidates this fall.

It’s also smart politics by Fitzgerald and Shapiro, both of whom are frequently mentioned as possible statewide candidates in the future, and should give Democrats heart about the strength of their bench.

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