6 One Step Away ● NOVEMBER 2017 V O T I N G R I G H T S A C C E S S VOTER ID LAWS As of June 5, 2017 a total of 34 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. 32 of these voter identification laws are in force in 2017. West Virginia’s law, signed on April 1, 2016, and Iowa’s law, signed on May 5, 2017, will go into effect in 2018. The remaining 18 states use other methods to verify the identity of voters. Most frequently, other identifying information provided at the polling place, such as a signature, is checked against information on file. See NCSL’s Voter Verification Without ID Documents. In Pennsylvania : Since Pennsylvania’s 2012 strict voter ID law was struck down by the courts in 2014, there are currently no identification requirements for voters in the state. REGISTRATION To register to vote in Pennsylvania, you must be: ❑ A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the next primary, special, municipal, or general election. ❑ A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which you want to register and vote for at least 30 days before the next primary, special, municipal, or general election. ❑ At least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next primary, special, municipal, or general election. Once you have registered to vote, you are not required to register again unless you change your residence, name, or political party affiliation. CRIMINAL CONVICTION Voting rights for convicted criminals vary substantially from state to state. In the vast majority of states, convicted criminals cannot vote while they are incarcerated, but may regain the right to vote upon release fromprison or at some point thereafter. In Pennsylvania : Pennsylvania is one of 14 states (plus Washington, D.C.) in which voting rights are restored to a convicted criminal immediately upon completion of his or her prison sentence. If you are incarcerated on ElectionDay as a result of a felony conviction, you are not entitled to vote. Your voting rights are automatically restored upon release from incarceration (that is, not in prison). You should re-register to vote if you were incarcerated for a long period of time. Check your registration status at votesPA. com/status. BARRIERS TO VOTING: PROTECTING VOTERS: AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION (AVR) LITERACY & READABILITY HOUSING INSECURITY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Registering to vote can be hard for people without stable housing. Most states require you to reside for 30 days or more before the Election Day in the state or county. However, you can still register and vote in all 50 states if you are homeless. What address can you use? 1. You can list a shelter address or where you receivemail. a. Broad Street Ministry’s mail services offer voter registration: 315 SBroad Street 2. You can list a street corner or park, in lieu of a traditional home address. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking often want to keep their new home address safe from their perpetrator, and may refrain from voting. In Pennsylvania: The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) helps provide an alternative address to use in certain situations where your address could become a “public record” and found by your abuser. Learn more at paacp.pa.gov. In2017, tenstates andD.C. approvedautomatic voter registration, and32 states have introducedAVRproposals this year.AVRwouldregistereligiblevotersautomaticallywhentheyworkwitha federal institution.Currently, votersmust register tovoteonce theyturn18yearsold.Thisnewreform,wouldautomaticallyregisterpeople,unless they“optout.” These registrants would be electronically transferred to state election officials, a more secure and affordable process then the current paper forms inuseaccording to theBrennanCenter for JusticeatNYU. In Pennsylvania: “House Bill 193” was introduced in January 2017, and would automatically register citizens in PA through theDepartment of Transportation (DMV), Department ofHumanServices (DHS), and theDepartment of MilitaryandVeteransAffairs (VA), unless they“opt-out.” In the United States: PA Democratic Representative Robert Brady introduced H.R.2876 the “Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017” in the House of Representatives on June 12, 2017. The same bill was introduced by VT DemocraticSenatorPatrickLeahyonJune14,2017intheSenateunderS.1353.Thebilloutlinedcontributingstateand federal agencies, including public and higher education agencies receiving federal funds, firearm regulators, criminal justice departments, Social SecurityAdministration, Department of Labor, andMedicare&Medicaid Services. For a full list visit Congress.gov. Unlesswaivedby theCommission, theActwill beginJanuary1, 2019. An April 2013 study by the Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. Nationally, 19%of high school graduates can’t read, and 21%of adults read below a 5th grade level. Philadelphia’s average reading level is 6th grade. Yet the most widely usedmeasure of reading— the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale — rated the current PA Homestead ballot question a 30 — as in 30 grade levels, or the equivalent of a Ph.D. If we want a fair and informed democratic process, we need to increase accessibility and readability during elections. While the District Attorney is required to provide a plain text version of the ballot question, that is not the one listed on the November 7 ballot. Collectively we need to advocate for greater access to democracy for all citizens. To learn more about Pennsylvania Voting Rights and Elections visit the Committee of Seventy at Seventy.org.