After reading "Maggi Announces 'Let Larry Vote' Petition Drive" in Peters Patch recently, what I thought was a harmless law would now be a problem. This could affect someone I know. My father-in-law goes by the name “Jack,” short for “John.” My wife’s uncle “Thomas” uses his nickname “Mickey,” which is based on his middle name. So I thought I’d do my own research, and get to the bottom of this.
First, I went to my trusted web resource, www.votespa.com, and started reading.
Just to make sure, I also checked on Larry Maggi’s party website, www.padems.com/content/voteridinfo, for comparison.
Before this law was enacted, photo ID was already required on the first time you vote at your new polling place. This new law simply builds upon that, and it says you have to show ID every time, in addition to the first time, and it adds new forms of ID that are considered valid.
In short, valid IDs are photo IDs that are used in an official capacity with a traceable serial number issued either by the U.S.—like passport or military ID, or issued by state of Pennsylvania Driver's License or PennDOT ID card, or an employee ID from any level of government, or an ID from a long-term care facility, or an ID from a school or college.
A valid “alternative” ID needs only a name, a photo and expiration date that are current. An exception is that a PA Driver's License or PennDOT ID card can be expired, but no more than a year.
So let’s work with our gentleman who has never filed for an official name change, and let’s assume he calls himself Larry Maggi sometimes. We should further assume that Larry has not moved since the spring primaries of 2012. Larry will show up this fall at his local polling station and records will show that he voted at least once before in the spring.
I am quite sure Larry Maggi did this since he wants to be our U.S. Congressman and he may have cast a vote for himself in the primary. Now even if Larry has a couple IDs with the name “Larry Magic” due to some special interest or hobby, it is reasonable to think that Larry has ID with his name corresponding to what we as voters saw on our ballots last November during the county commissioners' race.
Larry has a history at this polling station, he is not a new voter, but his name doesn’t match his ID exactly. I thought this could be a problem so I asked a local Judge of Elections Laura Zajdel, since she would be responsible for deciding herself or escalating to the county elections office.
Laura shared with me that visual identification would be important for the inspector and Judge of Elections. If the name is “Larry Maggi” on the ID versus “Lawrence Maggi” on the voting record book, he gets his card and votes.
Visual and birth date comparisons would also be possible. The Washington County Elections Office is readily available to assist judges in special cases. They have been readily available, painstakingly accurate and helpful to us on Election Day.
Sometimes people are simply at the wrong polling station, or have recently married without registering their married name. There has been a case like this and the woman was able to vote under her maiden name, giving her time to re-register her new name for the next election.
According to Larry Spahr, director of the Washington County Elections Office, the state of Pennsylvania is preparing a uniform set of directions for all the election boards. Common sense will prevail.
As anyone can see, discretion and evaluation of the Judge of Elections is required, but the law does say that the name on the official voter list must be substantially conform to the ID presented. As a final test, the signature should reasonably match the signature on file, printed on the official voter list. Once again, discretion and evaluation of the Judge of Elections is required.
As a final recourse, you can still vote believe it or not, on a provisional paper ballot. You must then affirm within six calendar days of an election, either in person at your County Board of Elections or by sending the board an electronic, faxed or paper copy of an affirmation—that you are the same person who appeared at the polls on election day and cast a provisional ballot and, if this applies, that you can’t afford to get proof of your identity without paying a fee. You can be prosecuted for perjury if you give false information.
If you need to update your name because of marriage or a life event, simply fill out a voter registration form and make sure your names match with your ID. There are many locations with voter registration forms, and the consensus among poll workers is that you do it yourself even though other options and agencies may exist. If you need an ID, or you have doubts about your ID, you can call the Department of State's Voter ID hot line at 1-877-868-3772.
In conclusion, some in your circle of friends may call you Larry, but no one will keep you from voting. Please note that neither luck nor magic are required, only common sense.