The voter identification law subject of much debate and angst is getting a soft rollout in the upcoming Primary Election locally.
The law passed last month in Pennsylvania is described often as one of the toughest voter identification laws in the nation. Some people have suggested it was passed to make it more difficult for certain people to vote. The harshest critics have gone so far as to suggest the law is meant to tip the scales toward Republican candidates and to make re-election of President Obama unfairly difficult.
So let's take a deep breath and consider the spirit and mechanics of the law.
The bill requires all voters to provide photo identification before they can vote in the November election. That means the voter's name and photo on a card, most typically a driver's license. A U.S. passport or military ID also would work. A non-driver's license photo ID also is available free of charge through the local Department of Transportation License Center.
No one who arrives at a polling place, even in November, will be denied their right to vote, even if they are lacking the voter identification. They will be given a provisional paper ballot and will have six days to affirm their identification, in person, by email or fax.
For the Primary Election, no photo identification will be required to vote, but those lacking it will be instructed on how to get it for November. After the Primary Election, the county will begin an initiative to educate county voters, particularly those in nursing homes and other elder care facilities, on how to get a photo ID.
None of this sounds like an attempt to keep people from voting.
But it is a way to guard against voter fraud. And it doesn't matter much to us that there hasn't been an outbreak of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. The idea is to protect the integrity of each vote before it is abused, not after an election is called into question.
We don't agree with overly intrusive questions that have to be answered and the elongated process required of Amish people and members of other Mennonite sects who object to having photos taken but are seeking to comply with the law. Some of that process could be softened.
But the spirit of the law is correct. And those in an uproar over it need to explain why a simple photo ID requirement for a vote is a matter of such concern. IDs are necessary for many normal daily functions, so it shouldn't be a big deal requiring it for our most sacred of democratic rights voting.