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MontCo to Issue IDs to Voters through Nursing Facility

Apparent loophole in state's voter ID law will allow any registered voter to obtain photo identification from the Parkhouse Senior Care Center in Upper Providence. Other locations may also offer the service.

With the 2012 elections less than seven weeks away, registered Montgomery County voters who still lack acceptable voter identification got an assist from the county's Board of Commissioners on Thursday.

Exploiting an apparent loophole in the controversial Voter ID law that was passed by the state legislature last spring, the commissioners passed a resolution that will allow the county to begin issuing valid voter identification cards to registered voters under the auspices of the Parkhouse nursing care facility in Upper Providence Township.

The resolution takes advantage of a section of the law that lists which entities are allowed to issue acceptable forms of voter identification. Section 1 (z.5)(2) lists the federal or state governments, an accredited Pennsylvania institution of higher learning, a municipality of the Commonwealth, or a "Pennsylvania care facility."

According to David Robinson, an assistant solicitor for the county, the law states that municipalities can only issue identification cards to their employees, but the other authorized issuers are not restricted in their ability to issue identification.

A passport is an example of federally issued identification, while a Pennsylvania driver license or a voting ID from the PA Department of State are examples of state-issued identification.

"A strict reading of the law clearly authorizes a Pennsylvania care facility, such as Parkhouse, to issue voter ID cards to any registered voter," Robinson said, adding that he believes the resolution is "in concert" with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order of last week.

"It helps to assure that Montgomery County voters have liberal access to Voter ID cards. Second, a Commonwealth challenge to Parkhouse's right to issue voter ID cards would arguably be an attempt to impose stricter rules than are contemplated by the statute, a direct violation of the express mandate of the Supreme Court," Robinson said.

A State Department spokesperson told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it had no "immediate" plans to challenge the county's move, though Ron Ruman noted to the newspaper that the law's "clear intent" was to limit issuance of identification to people who had "direct connections" to the issuing institutions.

Asked whether the use of the Parkhouse in this capacity constituted a "loophole" in the Voter ID law, County Commissioner Josh Shapiro was equivocal. 

"I think you'd have to leave that to the [state] legislature, to determine what their intention was. All I can do is read the law, which clearly gives us the authority to issue IDs. We're going to do everything we can to ensure that every Montgomery County voter who is eligible to vote can vote," Shapiro said.

Additional locations beyond Upper Providence facility are likely

The resolution, which authorizes Parkhouse to issue voter identification cards to any registered voters who reside in the county, leaves open the possibility that other county properties could be set up as temporary annexes or extensions of the Parkhouse in order to facilitate the distribution of identification cards at other locations around the county.

"[Chief Operating Officer] Lauren [Lambrugo] and [Communications Director] Frank [Custer] are going to issue details shortly in terms of how we're going to implement it. We've got to work through the details in terms of the location or locations and all the other issues," Shapiro said.

"It is safe to assume Parkhouse will not be the only location," Custer said in an email message. Implementation of the program is scheduled to begin October 1.

The identification cards will only be issued to the county's registered voters, and will fulfill the state identification requirements at the polls, a release from the county said. However, if the resolution withstands any legal challenges, it will likely serve as an example for other counties to follow throughout the state.

Shapiro hailed the action in a statement distributed to the media at the Thursday night meeting.

"I continually hear from voters who are having trouble securing a proper ID card to vote," he said. "While my opposition to the Voter ID law is well-documented, I took an oath to uphold all the laws. Tonight's unanimous decision by our board simply ensures the rights of eligible Montgomery County voters."

Commissioner Leslie Richards, chair of the county's Election Board, also supported the resolution, as did commissioner Bruce Castor. Castor says that while he "is all about the law," he also believes the program is legal.

"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," Castor said.

Cindy Tricoski September 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I was volunteering yesterday at the Berks Dems booth at the Oley Fair, and a young man who is a client of BCIU wanted to register very badly. He had a valid photo ID from BCIU, and from speaking with him, it was obvious he was very informed--probably more informed than many voters of any party--regarding issues in this election. We could not find any way to register him, because the BCIU ID could not be used as a valid ID. And yes, he would have had the same problem had he gone to register at the Republican booth. I know people who voted for Reagan back in the day because they liked his movies, and I am guessing there are many many people across the political spectrum who have always voted one way or the other for reasons that have nothing to do with the issues. Also, I remember years ago while I was working at Pennhurst, our residents were gven the right to vote. I remember one femaie resident returning to tell me she had voted for Harry Truman, even though old Harry was long gone not only from the presidential ballot, but from Earth as well. "penlynjohn" above notes stipulations, so the process must have changed since my Pennhurst days. But going over the Voter ID booklet, I saw nothing that would indicate that same female patient would not be able to vote for Harry again. Unfortunately, neither did I see anything that would make it easier for the young man from BCIU to get a valid ID.
B. Booey September 22, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Thank you Hammer for calling out these morons! They are just furious that their slimy voter disenfranchisement tactics are being circumvented. Scumbags.
gerhard sweetman September 23, 2012 at 04:05 PM
None of the above, should be on the ballot
A.S. September 26, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Hammer, just one question buddy...did you puff your chest out when you typed that? lol
regnig September 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Yes, the DMV hours are being expanded. With the exception of the people in nursing homes, you've just proved my point. DMV offices are open on Saturdays and nights. The single mom whose car broke down - does she have no family or friends? I'm am NOT part of your liberal "1%" - but I'm sick to death of everyone looking for a handout. I work hard for what I have, and I don't see anyone offering me a handout. And while I used the "liberal" term, this isn't about liberal or conservative or independent. This is about the "47%" getting off their duffs and doing for themselves instead of expecting someone else to do it for them.

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