The GOP has doubled down on their efforts to keep the PA Voter ID law from being struck down on the basis of availability:
Here's the big takeaway from this morning's Commonwealth Court session on Pennsyvlania's voter identification law: The Department of State and PennDOT have eased the requirements to get a voter-only photo identification card.
And instead of serving as the "last resort" for ID, it will now be among the first options offered to those seeking photo ID to vote in November.
To obtain a card, a person only has to show up at a PennDOT motor license center, give their name, date of birth and Social Security number.
The state is no longer requiring proof of residency. Once the person is confirmed as a registered voter, the ID will be issued, PennDOT Deputy Secretary Kurt Myers testified this morning.
In a statement e-mailed to reporters, Secretary of State Carol Aichele said the new rules, which went into effect this morning statewide, will meet a Supreme Court ruling that identification cards be "liberally accessible" to those who need them.
Myers was the first witness in what was expected to be two days' worth of testimony before Judge Robert E. Simpson, who's been charged by the high court with determining whether the state is getting proper ID into the hands of those who need them and if voters are being disenfranchised. The high court's action comes in response to its ruling on a request to keep the law from going into effect with the Nov. 6 election.
In nearly two hours on the stand, Myers acknowledged that there had been problems with implementing the photo ID program, but said once those problems had been discovered, the agency worked quickly to address them.
David Gersch, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, peppered Myers with questions about waiting times at PennDOT motor licensing centers, at one point asking the bureaucrat if he was familiar with reports that people in the Philadelphia area had been made to wait an hour or more to obtain ID.
Myers said the Philadelphia region offices tend to be among the agency's busiest and that PennDOT reps try to service customers in "30 minutes or less." To accommodate demand for cards, the agency has extended its operating hours, he added.
And in instances where a person's voter registration could not be verified, customers were given a paper voter registration form to fill out. Once that registration was completed with the Department of State, the ID is then mailed to them, Myers said.
Another fact: Since March, the state has issued 21 refurnds to people who paid for ID cards when they should have gotten them for free, Myers testified.
Although it was pretty dry stuff, there were some moments of levity, For instance, when Myers' testimony prompted one lawyer to yawn, Simpson jokingly chided him: "You can't be yawning," he said to laughs from the audience and bar alike. "This is as interesting for me as it is for you."
Court resumes at 1:30 p.m. Simpson has barred electronic devices and Tweeting from the courtroom. We'll update again as soon as we're able to do so.