Pennsylvania’s controversial Voter ID Law may activate a new duty for nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living residences to issue photo identification to residents if necessary to enable them to vote.

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) sent a notice to nursing home operators advising of this potential new duty to issue photo identification as a result of Act 18 of 2012—also called the Voter ID Law—signed by Governor Corbett in March. This follows a similar notice sent in June to personal care home operators by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW).

The DOH notice explains that under the Voter ID Law, acceptable photo ID for the purpose of voting includes IDs issued to residents and employees by care facilities—provided that the identification includes an expiration date and is not yet expired. The notice also includes a template photo ID.

The Voter ID Law, which is being challenged by civil liberties groups with a hearing starting today in Commonwealth Court, does not have an express requirement that these facilities make such identification available, and both the DPW and DOH notices acknowledge there is no specific regulatory requirement relating to issuing photo IDs. Nonetheless, DPW and DOH both caution facilities that failure to issue photo IDs to residents may result in a violation.

The potential duty may extend to assisted living residences as well, since they are subject to the Voter ID Law to the same extent as personal care homes and nursing homes.

In the absence of a decisive mandate from DPW and DOH, personal care home and nursing home operators should consider identifying residents who will require photo identification and issuing them such identification. Although the DPW and DOH guidance to date is limited to personal care homes and nursing homes, assisted living residences may also want to act on DPW’s and DOH’s guidance and consider a similar program.