Pennsylvania Department of State Debunks Myths Associated With Election, Voting

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HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 23 /-USNewswire/ -- To better prepare voters for Election Day, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes today said it is important to dispel some myths and misinformation about Pennsylvania's electoral process.

    "False rumors confuse our citizenry, increase the potential for human error, and create unnecessary fears about Election Day," Cortes said. "It is vital that voters know the truth so they can properly and correctly prepare to have their voices heard."

    According to the Department of State, common election- and voting-related myths (see the Editor's Note, below) range from provisional ballots not being counted to the arrest of any would-be elector who attempts to vote while having unpaid parking tickets in his or her name.

    The department learned about various myths from a variety of sources, including inquiries from the media and the general public.

    Since Governor Edward G. Rendell appointed Cortes in 2003, the department has expanded and diversified its efforts to educate voters.

    In 2004, the department launched its multi-faceted voter education initiative Ready.Set.Vote. Components of the campaign include a toll-free hotline, advertisements targeting general and specific audiences -- including voters with disabilities and military electors -- and the department's comprehensive voter preparedness Web site: VotesPA.com.

    "At VotesPA.com, there is something for everyone," Cortes said. "It is a one-stop shop of important information: whether you are a first-time voter who needs to know what the approved forms of identification are or you are a long-time voter who simply wants to sign up for election-related reminders."

    As of yesterday, 796 VotesPA.com visitors have signed up for voting reminders to be sent directly to the e-mail or mobile-device information they provided; that is up from 430 since Monday.

    For more information about preparing to participate in the General Election on Nov. 4, visit VotesPA.com or call 1-877-VOTESPA (868-3772). For more information about the department's role in helping to facilitate elections in the commonwealth, visit http://www.dos.state.pa.us and click on the elections graphic in the top half of the homepage.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: The following are common election-related myths identified by the Department of State:

    Myth: Provisional ballots are not counted. Provisional ballots are legally binding documents through which an individual asserts that they are in fact eligible to vote. All provisional ballots cast on Election Day are reviewed. Provisional ballots that are confirmed to be cast by qualified electors are counted. A similar myth implies that ballots cast by overseas civilian and military voters are not counted. Absentee ballots cast by qualified electors and received by the appropriate deadline -- Oct. 31 for civilian voters, Nov. 12 for overseas and military electors -- are counted.

    Myth: The machines miscount or omit straight-party votes. Pennsylvania's voting machines do allow voters to cast all of their votes in each race on the ballot for all candidates in a particular party, by selecting the voting system's straight-party option at the beginning of the voting process. The rumor is that if one votes a straight party, the machine will miscount or omit offices on the ballot. When voting a straight-party ballot all offices -- including president and vice president -- on the ballot with a candidate in the party selected will receive a vote and it will be properly counted.

    Myth: The machines flip votes. Election officials in each county check the voting machines and software to ensure that voters can cast their ballots for the candidates of their choosing. If a voter believes that a machine indicates a vote for the candidate that he or she did not select, he or she should ask a poll worker for assistance before completing the voting process.

    Myth: Drivers' licenses are the only acceptable form of voter ID. All electors voting for the first time ever, or for the first time in a new precinct, must provide an approved form of photo or non-photo ID. This is not limited to a driver's license. Approved forms of photo ID include, but are not limited to, photo identification cards from a college or employer, a U.S. passport or a government-issued ID. Approved forms of non-photo ID, which verify a voter's identity and address, include a utility bill, firearm permit, bank statement, paycheck or government check. Finally, new voters can also present a voter registration card, which the county mails to new registrants, typically within 14 days of sending a completed application, if that application was postmarked by the Oct. 6 deadline.

    Myth: Voters must participate in every election to remain registered. In Pennsylvania, there is no requirement to vote in every election -- state election code does permit registrants who have been inactive for five years or more to be removed from the registry of electors, after unanswered attempts to notify inactive voters have been made. Voters can confirm their status by contacting their county board of elections.

    Myth: Voters dealing with home foreclosure cannot vote. To date, there have been no substantiated cases of homeowners being removed from the voting rolls if they are dealing with a foreclosure. Pennsylvania voters must have been residents of the commonwealth for at least 30 days prior to the next election and can verify their address and registration status with their county board of elections.

    Myth: Voters who have moved but not completed a change of address cannot vote. If a voter has recently moved but did not complete a change of address form by the Oct. 6 voter registration deadline, he or she is permitted to vote at his or her previous polling place. Voters who have relocated but return to their previous polling place to vote will be asked to update their addresses.

    If a voter has moved to a new county, they will be removed from the rolls in their previous county of residence. Doing so is one of several ways that the state's voter registration database, known as the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) prevents individuals from registering and casting a ballot at multiple locations.

    Since the 2007 General Election, SURE has rejected more than 200,000 applications for various reasons, most of which were duplicate registrations.

    Myth: Where a college student votes affects their financial aid. If they have registered using their school address, college students are permitted to vote at the polling place assigned to them by the board of elections in the county where they reside during the school year. The decision to vote in person at their assigned polling place, or via absentee ballot if they are residents of another state or county, will not affect a student's eligibility for health insurance or financial aid.

    Myth: Convicted felons -- even after release -- cannot vote. State law restores voting rights to convicted felons once they have been released from prison. This includes those who are on probation or parole. Voters with only minor offenses such as outstanding parking tickets, bench warrants or child support payments will not be arrested if they attempt to vote.

    CONTACT: Leslie Amoros

    Rebecca Halton

    (717) 783-1621
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