Report cites voter ID shortfalls at PennDOT centers

Volunteers recently visited 43 PennDOT bureaus in 28 Pennsylvania counties. They reported what anyone who’s ever visited such facilities already has experienced — long wait times, confusing rules, and many, many steps.

They also found confusion, misinformation, and uneven availability of necessary forms for the state’s new voter identifications.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center organized the experiment.

Volunteer Tom Gemmill accompanied his 97-year-old father, who gave up driving two years ago.

“I said we’re here to get a voter ID, a free voter ID. And the clerk said, ‘Everything here is $13.25. I don’t know anything about free stuff,'” Gemmill said.

Voters are entitled to free identification from the state. Gemmill’s father eventually got his free ID, but it took a strenuous hour and a half.

State-issued IDs will be the most commonly used — though not the only — photo IDs on Election Day.

“A gentleman took 16 people from his church and his community to one of the Philadelphia PennDOT centers,” reports Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “They were told when they walked in the door they had to pay, and so 12 of them got back on the van because they didn’t have the money.”

Ward says PennDOT offices need to extend their hours and make forms and information more available.

“Unless there are changes in the way the law is implemented, then it is likely that people won’t be able to get their ID,” Ward said.

Hearings have just concluded in the ACLU’s suit to overturn the voter ID law. If the law stands, it will be in effect for the November election.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.