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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: April 27, 2022 04:50 PM
From: Senator Art Haywood
To: All Senate members
Subject: Diacritical Marks in Names on PA IDs and Documents
In the near future, I will introduce a resolution urging all state agencies to use diacritical marks on official Commonwealth identification cards and documents by July 2024.

Diacritical marks are accent marks that are used in writing to place stress on a letter to change its sound. They are commonly used in names, but currently Pennsylvania still lacks the capability to place diacritical marks on some official documents, such as driver’s licenses. For example, someone may be named José, but it would be spelled “Jose” on his driver’s license. To respect the dignity every individual, a person’s name should be spelled correctly on official documents. Moreover, when there is a mismatch of names this can lead to a host of problems such as confirming identity, rental applications and applying for services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Our state agencies create and perpetuate these issues because our technology is not compatible with allowing diacritical marks on letters. 

Most agencies like Department of Health can use diacritical marks already, but PennDOT cannot. PennDOT still struggles with old legacy mainframes for motor vehicles and driver’s licenses, which are built on the same old programming language that cannot accommodate for them. PennDOT already is moving to replace the mainframes, but the target date for completion is inexact, possibly 2026-27. This is far too long. Where there is a will, there is a way to speed up the process. 

This resolution urges all Pennsylvania agencies to ensure their computer systems can handle diacritical marks in a person’s name on a driver’s license, personal identification card or other Commonwealth-issued document by 1 July 2024. All Pennsylvanians deserve their names to be acknowledged and accurately reflected. Making sure that we call people by their names is the least our Commonwealth can do to respect the dignity of all Pennsylvanians. 

Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation. 

Introduced as SR291