STATE COLLEGE -- The state's top election official says nearly 12,000 new identification cards have been issued by the commonwealth to residents seeking to comply with a tough new Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show photo ID.

But as a judge weighs whether the law should stand just six weeks before the presidential election, stories of people who traveled an unusually long road in their quest to vote continue to emerge.

On Wednesday, Secretary of Commonwealth Carol Aichele said most of the cards issued are non-driver voter identification cards. Aichele estimates about 100,000 of the 9.6 million eligible voters in Pennsylvania don't have the most common form of identification -- a driver's license.

The state has been pressing ahead with implementing the guideline even

with the new law still under scrutiny in the courts. The state has sent postcards to registered voters, aired TV and radio commercials and posted ads on billboards and mass transit vehicles.

Student IDs: Aichele spoke Wednesday at Penn State University, where she praised the school's efforts to add expiration dates to student ID cards -- a change that makes the cards a valid ID at the polls.

Among Pennsylvania facing the greatest challenge in the wake of the new law are those who have no valid photo ID and cannot get a record of their birth to prove their identity, are disabled, or are confronting a bureaucratic maze of identification requirements or ill-informed clerks at driver's license centers.


Advertisement

Getting approved: Tunizia Brown of Philadelphia submitted a court declaration that she got a state-issued photo ID card last week only after persuading a driver's license center clerk to double-check that she is registered to vote -- on her third trip to the center.

Suzanne Williamson said in a declaration that she needed the assistance of a voting-rights advocate to persuade a clerk to issue a voting-only ID for her autistic sister after another clerk had sent her on an ultimately futile and unnecessary errand to downtown Philadelphia to get a copy of her sister's birth certificate.

Regina Trice, who is staying with a friend after losing her job, said she was told in a trip to a Philadelphia driver's license center this month that she could not get a photo ID because she did not have a birth certificate or proof of residence.

On Wednesday, long waits confronted some people visiting the downtown Philadelphia driver's license center on Arch Street, the state's busiest. One man, Patrick DiGiacomo, who needed a new photo ID both for work and to vote, said he didn't have the time to wait for an estimated three hours, and left.

John Coleman decided it was worth the wait and spent four hours in line to get a photo ID. Coleman, 50, said he has spent the past several years without a valid photo ID and got his documents together to get a current one after flyers about the new voting requirements started circulating on his block in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.

"It's always important to vote," Coleman said. "It's the only way to make change."

Judge: On Tuesday, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson told lawyers that it is possible he'll issue an injunction, although he gave no indication what it might say, or whether it would prevent the entire law from taking effect for the Nov. 6 election, as the law's opponents are seeking.

Simpson is under orders from the state Supreme Court to halt the law by Tuesday if he finds the state has not met the law's promise of providing easy access to a photo ID, or if he believes it will prevent any registered voters from casting a ballot.

Testimony in front of Simpson resumes Thursday.