Following up on this morning's Q poll results, the NYT is moving its rating on the presidential race in Pa to the Democratic column. Reporter Jeff Zeleny explains:

Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes have long been among the most closely watched in the race for the White House, is now rated as Leaning Democratic, according to the latest New York Times ranking of presidential battlegrounds.

The state had previously been ranked as a Tossup. But so far, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has invested considerable money on television advertising in the state and a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania found that Mr. Obama has an advantage of 11 percentage points.

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, affirms what both campaigns have already discovered: Pennsylvania – for now, at least – is not among the top tier of battlegrounds.

The state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in the last five elections. Mr. Romney is still waging an aggressive fight, but the terrain is likely more difficult than in the eight other remaining Tossup states in the Times' rankings: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Even voters who are aware of the state's new Voter ID rules get confused when the state tries to explain them.

Just ask House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

Apparently because the Oakmont Democrat is registered as "Francis" he was one of Allegheny County's nearly 100,000 voters (and 758K statewide) alerted by letter recently that his information doesn't match up exactly with PennDOT license records. Except the form letter from the state doesn't exactly say that, and Dermody (a vocal critic of the new GOP-approved requirements) wasn't sure what to make of it. From a statement he issued yesterday:

"The problem is this letter does not do what the state claims it does. There is no explicit warning that the recipient of the letter may lack the proper ID. People who have voted for years without problems know little about the new law and will assume they are fine," Dermody said.

"Nothing in this letter will make them think otherwise or get them to check their ID. My guess is many people threw away the letter without giving it another thought.

"If this letter was truly the first step in a statewide educational campaign, then I have to question the planning that went into it and the overall effectiveness at reaching voters, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost to mail this letter," Dermody said.

Others in Dermody's predicament interviewed by the P-G yesterday shared his confusion with the letters. Read for yourself (click for larger version):


Never one to shun the spotlight, US Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, is back in the headlines today.

From NBC:

A House Republican lawmaker likened the implementation of a new mandate that insurers offer coverage for contraceptive services to Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.

Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R), an ardent opponent of abortion rights, said that today's date would live in infamy alongside those two other historic occasions. Wednesday marked the day on which a controversial new requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires health insurance companies to cover contraceptive services for women, goes into effect.

"I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day.  The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack," Kelly said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."

UPDATE: Kelly's Democratic challenger Missa Eaton says Kelly owes 9/11 and Pearl Harbor survivors an apology. Her statement:

"First and foremost, Mike Kelly must absolutely apologize to the victims and families affected by the horrible attacks on Pearl Harbor and on 9/11. The comparison is ludicrous and compares foreign acts of aggression upon our nation to a piece of domestic legislation that sincerely tries to provide women with access to quality, affordable healthcare."

UPDATE 2. Kelly's official statement is after the jump:

Barack Obama is back across the border in northeastern Ohio today, less than a month since his post-Independence Day bus tour of Ohio and Pittsburgh, which ended at CMU.

Jackie Calmes at the NYT notes he's flying into a controversy around Mansfield and Akron that should sound familiar to Pittsburghers worried about the 911th in Moon:

But Mr. Obama was flying, literally, into a controversy in Mansfield that Republicans, led by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a potential running mate for Mr. Romney, were only too happy to fan. According to local media, Air Force One was landing at an air base that is home to the 179th Air National Guard Wing, which would be mothballed under the Obama administration’s proposed postwar reductions in Pentagon spending.

Allegheny County voter/no ID list

Andrew McGill and I have a story today looking at the list of nearly 100,000 voters in Allegheny County identified by the state as possibly not having PennDOT IDs, a list that includes late Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor's wife Judy (a longtime judge of elections at her local precinct) and a bunch of other recognizable Democratic names. The state issued the list knowing many of those listed probably had ID of some kind but wanted to blanket as many as possible with letters reminding them to check their ID status.

Confused yet? Even the state's top election official admitted in court yesterday that she's not entirely familiar with the state's new law, Karen Langley reports. The ACLU is set to finish its case against the legislation at Commonwealth Court today.

Andrew created this search function for residents of Pennsylvania's second-biggest county to check their status.

The list confirms fears from Democrats and other Voter ID opponents that minority, elderly and youth voters look to be most affected. From the story:

Others on the list of 99,115 voters in Allegheny County who don't match with PennDOT records include county councilman and United Steelworkers official John DeFazio, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald's wife, Cathy, county Judge Michael Della Vecchia and city Councilman William Peduto.

All those political names have ID and will be able to vote in November, and all are Democrats.

The requirements "are a sure case of voter suppression that 10 years from now we'll look back on and change," said Mr. Peduto, of Point Breeze. "Anybody arguing the case this [legislation] is to go after fraud and abuse is fooling themselves. This a measure to intimidate people not to show up to vote."

"This kind of mistake is likely a drop in the bucket, but it makes it clear that we really have no clue how many people these misguided voter suppression laws will affect," USW International President Leo Gerard said of Mr. DeFazio being on the list. "If the records are wrong for an elected official who has served for years, then what about the thousands of others who could lose their rights? Who belongs on this list? Who does not? We really don't know."

An analysis of the Allegheny County data shows nearly a third of listed voters are 60 or older, and many are clustered in a series of ZIP codes that make up some of Pittsburgh's poorest neighborhoods -- East Liberty/Lincoln-Lemington, East Hills and the Hill District.

Women are nearly twice as likely to be without ID in Allegheny County. Voters in their 20s -- an important subset for Democrats -- are the second-most impacted age group, after those 80 and older. Democrats dominate the list, accounting for 66 percent of all voters suspected to lack ID. (Democrats make up 61 percent of all registered voters in the county.)

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