Pennsylvania: Make Voter ID Law Clear, Council Urged

Pennsylvania: Make Voter ID Law Clear, Council Urged

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By Eric Mayes of the Philly Tribune

A member of City Council has called for an end to advertisements about voter ID that she said were misleading voters.

“You do not need a voter ID to exercise your right to vote,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown at Thursday’s Council meeting, urging her colleagues to, “spread the word.”

Implementation of the new state law that would have required all voters to have a valid, state-approved, photo ID was delayed by a court ruling on Oct. 2, which means that voters are not required to show photo ID to vote on Nov. 6. Yet, Brown said, billboards around the city suggest that voters do need ID.

An official with the state Department of State said to the best of his knowledge, the message on billboards across the state has been updated. Voters will be asked for ID on Election Day, but those who cannot provide it will still be allowed to cast their ballots.

“The information that’s up currently, from what we’re aware of, is the new information,” said spokesman Matthew Keeler.

He provided a list that showed the last billboard in the area with the wrong information was taken down on Oct. 16.

Brown urged people to tell others that no ID is required for Election Day, and to spread the word via Facebook and other social media outlets as well as face to face.

“We are more connected to eachother. You do not have to wait for the media,” she said. “You actually have the power to report this story yourself.”

In other news, Council approved a report recommending the establishment of youth courts in the city’s comprehensive high schools.

“Some of us might think this is a drop in the bucket to real crime issues,” said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., the prime force behind the move to youth court. Jones recounted a story about a friend who ended up going to prison, but said his troubles started when he was disruptive in school. “Youth court is more than what we tend to know on its surface. It has the potential of setting a lot of young people on the right path, averting the path to prison.”

The report laid out a series of 10 recommendations. Among them, the committee recommended that the city begin to look at ways to fund youth courts within the school district and the juvenile justice system. It also recommended that city officials advocate for state statutes governing programs statewide.

Jones estimates the cost of such courts could run as high as $7,000 each, but said he hoped the city would not have to bear that cost. He estimated the city’s costs could be lowered to about $3,000 for each court. Comparing that to the cost of incarceration – roughly $35,000 a year – Jones said that’s a bargain.

The next step, said Jones, is to figure out a way to pay for the courts.

Members also, by a 15-2 vote, approved stiff new fines for anyone caught riding ATVs on city streets or parks. Council members Jannie Blackwell and Marian Tasco voted against the bill, which is now headed to the mayor’s desk. The bill would impose fines as high as $2,000 and allow police to confiscate ATV from offenders.

“I think we should enforce what’s already on the books before we move further,” Blackwell said, adding that the fine and confiscation of the ATV probably hit parents harder than it did kids.

The bill’s sponsor, Reynolds Brown, said last week during debate over the proposal that she intended it to address public safety issues.

“Public safety is the number one priority,” she said.

Finally, Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. introduced a bill that would double the amount of total available credits for new job creation. The legislation would give businesses a $5,000 credit for each new job created for tax years 2012 and 2013. The original tax credit was $1,000 for each new job created.

To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

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