Pittsburgh woman: I was improperly asked for ID before being forcibly removed from polling location

Updated: 8:22 p.m.

AmyJo Brown walked into her polling place around 9 this morning.

When she approached the table, she was immediately asked for identification by poll workers.

But instead of quickly resolving the misunderstanding, what followed included Brown being pushed out of the polling place by several people — including a man who grabbed her breast — and a call to cops, all before she was able to vote, Brown told The Incline late Tuesday afternoon.

Brown, an independent journalist who had voted at the Buena Vista Street polling location in the Central Northside before, told the workers that she didn’t need to give them ID to vote. (Which is correct. More on that later.)

One of the poll workers started going through the book to look for Brown’s name when the elections judge standing behind her said, “No. She has to give you her ID,” Brown said.

Brown stayed firm and then — like journalists do — started taking notes.

The comments the poll workers and judge made were unsettling, Brown said, adding that the judge’s justification was that she’d worked there “forever” and hadn’t seen Brown before.

They were very confident in their misunderstanding and had a strong reaction to how they thought it was supposed to work, Brown told The Incline.

Thinking it would be resolved quickly, Brown said she would call the elections court and went outside to make the call. She said the representative confirmed that she did not need ID and told her a call would be made to the elections judge so she could vote.

“I went back in with the full expectation [of voting],” Brown said. “They were not pleased to see me again, trying to vote in the same way.”

When the workers refused — again — to let her vote without an ID, Brown said she was going to stand there until she could.

Once she was in the hallway, Brown said she was shaken up.

“I don’t know why any of that was necessary,” Brown said, adding that she kept taking notes and tweeting as a way to record what happened and ask for accountability.

When police arrived, Brown said it was clear they wanted to resolve the issue without dramatics, and they did their job.

Emily Schaffer, spokeswoman for the city’s Public Safety Department, later told The Incline that “Police were called to that location for a disorderly person. They responded to the location, and the issue was resolved.”

Brown said she was eventually able to vote, thanks to officers and a representative from the elections court. But even then, Brown said the poll workers didn’t talk to her and were muttering about “that attitude” and how they wanted to “punch her in the face.”

After the polls closed, The Incline went to ask poll workers for comment, but they declined.

The whole thing was slightly intimidating, Brown said.

She wondered: While she, as a reporter, was familiar with election workers and police, what if it had happened to someone without that background?

“The hostility made no sense,” she said.

Brown WAS finally able to vote.

Another Pittsburgher responded with the same problem:

Robert Zacharias also emailed PublicSource to say that he went to vote at Bethesda Temple and was asked for ID.

“I didn’t give her ID and repeated that I thought since I’d voted there before I didn’t need it, and then a guy who I think might have been a party observer had overheard and he stepped over and said that if I’d voted there already I didn’t need ID. She sort of silently relented and just asked for my name. I gave it to her, she gave me the card to sign, gave it back, no problem, then I voted.”

Around noon, Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said there were several reports of precincts asking voters for ID.

“Federal and state law require that a voter show ID the first time they vote and the first time that they vote in a precinct. They can also be asked to show ID if identification is being questioned. Judges at those locations have been reminded of the law,” she wrote in an email.

She also wrote: “We still do not have any issues that are raising red flags, but are continuing to receive notifications on concerns and issues.”

If you need immediate assistance while at the polls, call the Election Protection Coalition at 866-OUR-VOTE.

So, do you need your ID to vote?

Well, that depends on your answer to the following question: Have you voted in that polling location before?

YES: Go ahead and leave your wallet at home.

NO: Bring some form of ID just in case. Your driver’s license is likely the easiest option, but here’s a full list of what’s accepted as ID:

  • Pa. driver’s license
  • PennDOT ID card
  • ID issued by a Commonwealth agency
  • ID issued by the U.S. government (with or without a photo)
  • U.S. passport
  •  U.S. Armed Forces ID, student ID or employee ID
  • A non-photo ID from the Commonwealth
  • A firearm permit,
  • Current paycheck, utility bill or bank statement
  • Government check
  • Your certificate of voter registration (aka the little card that comes in the mail telling you where to vote.)
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