By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Pennsylvania is spending $1-million in taxpayer dollars to advertise the voter ID law, even though the future of the law is uncertain. The ads have voting rights advocates are ringing the alarm.
Over the past few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly heard the voter ID ads telling voters to “show it.” That’s because the Pennsylvania Department of State is shelling out $700,000 in tax payer dollars on TV ads, nearly $200,000 on radio and the rest on targeted print ads. But voting rights advocates say the ads are having a negative impact.
“Spending a lot of money on voter ID advertising right now is doing more harm than good,” says Zack Stalberg, who runs voting rights watchdog Committee of Seventy. He says group has received numerous calls from voters saying they are confused.
“People hear [the ads] and are worried they’re going to have to produce some type of voter ID for this election,” says Stalberg, “but the voter ID law is not in place and we have no idea when it will be in place.”
The Commonwealth Court stayed the effect of the law until it can decide whether the law will stand.
To help counter the confusion among voters, the Committee of Seventy posted answers to several common questions surrounding the voter ID ads and the November 5th election at (include link) http://www.seventy.org/OurViews_How_Philly_Works_The_Real_Skinny_on_the_Voter_ID_Law_for_the_November_5th_Election.aspx?utm_source=HPW+-+Voter+ID+-+October+-+2013&utm_campaign=Voter+ID+Law+Still+Confusing+Voters&utm_medium=email
And while only a single digit turnout is expected on election day in Philadelphia, other areas like Chester County are expecting double digit turnout for highly contested races. So Everett Butcher of the Chester County Minority Caucus says they’re working with the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Coalition to go door to door on Saturday to ensure voters have the correct information.
“We are going to be canvassing, we will have literature to hand out to voters,” says Butcher, “because there is still a lot of confusion on whether people will need an ID to vote next week.”
Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman says the agency has received calls from opponents of the voter ID complaining about confusion, but Commonwealth will keep running the ads through election day.
“The voter education portion of the law is still in effect,” says Ruman, “what we are doing is telling voters what the status of the law is and reminding them that they can still get a free voter ID if they need one.”
Ruman says the Commonwealth are required to educate voters about the voter ID law even though photo ID is not required to cast a ballot unless a voter is voting at a polling place for the first time.
Ruman says the Commonwealth has earmarked another million dollars for further education on voter ID law before the spring primary.
For more on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law or on the November 5th election, go to votespa.com.
Follow Cherri Gregg on Twitter @cherrigregg