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AFL-CIO Now

Pennsylvania Teachers Have Key Role in Voter Education

Two "My Vote, My Right" events will be held in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia where voters can received IDs.

When it comes to voter registration and education, there is no place more critical in 2012 than the key swing state of Pennsylvania. Members of the AFT Pennsylvania (AFT-PA) are playing a big role in making sure voters are ready and able to cast ballots in the Keystone State.

In addition to a long list of their own activities, AFT-PA is participating in a “My Vote, My Right” event on Sept. 18, where the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) will join AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker and members of unions, community and voting rights groups outside the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) office in downtown Pittsburgh to help people obtain voter ID cards and register to vote. Another "My Vote, My Right event will be held in Philadelphia on Sept. 22 at the Department of Motor Vehicle office in the Oxford Levick Shopping Center at 919-B Levick St.

The Republican-dominated Pennsylvania legislature passed a voter identification law in the spring, and in August, a state judge refused to block the law from going into effect for the Nov. 6 election. The state Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the law on Sept. 13 but is not expected to rule until the end of the month.

Under the law, voters must show a state-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. The Pennsylvania Department of State has released data showing that more than 758,939 registered voters, or 9 percent, do not have the proper IDs.

The situation has spurred registration and education efforts that are even larger than usual, according to Dee Tancredi, political director for the AFT-PA.

Retirees and members are staffing tables outside the AFT-PA office in Philadelphia, she said.

It’s a heavily trafficked area, and our volunteers are talking to our members and the general public to make sure they understand the new ID law, help them register to vote, get absentee ballots and remind them to make sure their family members are ready to vote as well.

Volunteers are staffing phone banks in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Plymouth Meeting, Newcastle and Jefferson Hills, and members of AFT-PA retiree chapters are visiting nursing homes and senior centers, Tancredi said.

We depend heavily on our retirees, especially during the day when teachers are in school.

Members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are educating eligible high school students, and parents, about the new ID law and making registration and absentee voter forms available during back-to-school and open house events.

“We’re getting demands for voter materials every day,” Tancredi said. 

The AFL-CIO My Vote, My Right website offers hands-on information on voter registration, voter ID laws and steps to take to protect your right to vote on Election Day. Find out what you need to know to make sure your vote counts this year. Get information on voter registrationyour voting rights by state and more at the AFL-CIO’s MyVoteMyRight.org.

Have questions about your voting rights? Call 866-Our-Vote (866-687-8683).

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