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September 1, 2014, 10:21 pm

Election law to get ‘dress rehearsal’

Voters will be asked for ID in April primary; mandatory in Nov.


Next week’s primary is a dress rehearsal of sorts for the general election in November, when — for the first time — Pennsylvania voters will be required to have a valid photo ID to cast their ballot.

Poll workers will ask voters for identification next week, but voters may vote without one.

“The April 24 primary is like a dress rehearsal,” said Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, vice president and policy director of the Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan election watchdog group. “You will be asked for a photo ID, but will still be allowed to vote on the machines without one.”

She urged voters to use the occasion to prepare for the general election.

“It’s a good idea to bring a photo ID, just to get in the habit of bringing it to the polls every time you vote,” she said.

In addition, Kaplan, in an effort to raise awareness of voting rules in general, pointed out that a number of important voting deadlines occur this week for voters hoping to take part in the primary.

None of the deadlines governing the primary are new.

Applications for absentee and alternative ballot must be received by the Board of Elections by 5 p.m. today.

“You have to first apply for the ballot, and then they send you the ballot, and then you vote,” she said. “It’s not one step.”

The vote must be cast by Friday.

Voters who expect to be absent from their home counties on April 24 because of their duties, occupation or business (including leaves of absence for teaching, vacations or sabbaticals) are eligible for an absentee ballot. Voters who will be in their home counties may still qualify for an absentee ballot if they are (a) county employees prevented from voting because of their Election Day duties, (b) observing a religious holiday, (c) in the military or (d) unable to go to the polls or operate a voting machine and obtain assistance by distinct and audible statements.

Voters with a disability, or who are at least 65 years of age and have been assigned to a polling place deemed inaccessible by their county Board of Elections, are eligible to vote by alternative ballot.

Applications for emergency absentee ballots must be received by the Board of Elections by 5 p.m. Friday.

Emergency absentee ballots are available for voters who are unable to vote because of an emergency, and who could not have known this prior to the April 17 deadline for applying for absentee ballots. All emergency absentee ballot applications must be signed by the applicant/voter and notarized.

“People sometimes don’t understand that there are deadlines when it comes to voting,” Kaplan said. “But states have very different rules. It’s up to individual states to make up their own rules.”

Kaplan added that the state’s routine deadlines will not change in November when the voter ID law goes into full effect.

“What will change is what you need to include on an absentee ballot application,” she said.

The Philadelphia Board of Elections is Room 142, City Hall, Philadelphia, Pa., 19107.

For more information on voting rules, and questions about the new voter ID law, contact the Committee of Seventy at 215-557-3600 or the Board of Elections at 215-686-3469.