Voter ID Again

Friday, Judge Bernard McGinley of PA Commonwealth Court (see once again temporarily barred enforcement of last year’s Voter ID law. Didn’t overturn it, didn’t give a permanent injunction, didn’t make it unconstitutional, just barred enforcement pending a final determination. Gotta think about it some more. What’s to think about, other than how to explain his lack of fealty to the Republican overlords of the state who bragged about how the law would give PA to Mitt Romney last year? What, exactly do you need to scratch your head about in regards to a law designed to keep registered voters from voting?
Now, one of my Republican friends (yes, I have Republican friends) insists that the law is there “To keep Mickey Mouse from voting.” That is, he thinks that the law was passed to protect us from people (or rodents) who aren’t legitimate, registered voters. Well, I don’t want M. Mouse, or Ben Dover, or Walter Melon coming and voting in Chadds Ford either. But the thing is, we already have a way to keep them from voting. It’s the list of registered voters that is given to every polling place. If you aren’t a registered voter, you’re not on the list. If you’re not on the list, you don’t vote. You can be a 4-star retired general with a pocketful of picture IDs including signed pictures of yourself with the president and the pope, BUT if you’re not on the list, you don’t get to go in the booth and push buttons. And, if you ARE on the list, the state has determined that you are a duly registered voter in that precinct. The Voter ID law kicks in only at that point, when duly registered voters come to vote. The law says that they need to show certain forms of ID (which conveniently are less likely to be held by the young, poor and elderly) to prove that they are in fact that registered voter—and not someone else impersonating them. And, despite having over a year to provide the court evidence that voter impersonation occurs in PA (and hence would need to be blocked by an ID law), the state has come up with precisely zero cases of voter impersonation in PA. But the plaintiffs in the case are actual people who are registered voters who have legitimate reasons why they either cannot get or have extreme difficulty getting the state-mandated ID. So we have clear harm (not just theoretical) from the law and not one bit of benefit. What’s to think about, Judge McGinley?

PA Voter ID – Contd.

Well, the Commonwealth Court heard arguments this week on the ACLU’s challenge to the PA Voter ID law. It’s worth reading some of the details about the plaintiffs: particularly about the elderly voters born in rural areas of other states who don’t have birth certificates.

Now remember, we’re not talking about registering new voters. This suit (and the whole issue itself) is all about people who are already legally registered to vote in PA, many of whom HAVE BEEN VOTING LEGALLY FOR YEARS. These people are now being told that in order to continue to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, they have to jump through a few nice big hoops because they don’t drive (and thus have a driver’s license) or have a passport or work for the state. So who doesn’t drive or have a passport or work for the state? The elderly, the poor and the unemployed, that’s who—and what good Republican wants them to decide what goes on in Washington and Harrisburg? Think it’s not about voter suppression? State House leader Mike Turzai was videotaped saying that “The Voter ID Bill will give Pennsylvania to Mitt Romney.”

Now those among us who don’t think the government should be shrunk until it can be drowned in a bathtub and do believe there’s a role for government regulation still want to see a reason for regulation. Like when Wall Street’s machinations crash the economy, say. Or 40,000 people under age 65 die each year because they don’t have health insurance. Got a problem? Maybe we should fix it. Maybe some regulations would help. So what’s the problem for which voter ID is the fix? Well the only problem it fixes is voter impersonation. Guess how many cases of voter impersonation the PA Republican administration claims to have found? That would be none. Zero. That’s what they put in their written response to the lawsuit. So the party that claims to exist solely to rid us of government interference has passed a burdensome, onerous law that may disenfranchise hundreds of thousands and inconvenience up to one million to solve NOTHING. Oh, wait. It’s not burdensome or onerous to the well to do, so I guess it doesn’t count (I’ve seen tons of online comments to the effect “everybody’s got an ID, what’s the big deal”).

Here are the current requirements for obtaining a PA Photo ID card:  Now interestingly, in response to the lawsuit the Republican administration is backpedaling on the requirements. On July 20, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele announced creation of a “new card” that will fulfill the requirements of the law.

“The new voter photo identification cards are scheduled to be available at PennDOT’s Driver’s License Centers beginning the last week of August. The identification cards can be issued to registered voters who may not have all of the documents necessary to obtain a non-driver’s license photo ID from PennDOT, primarily a birth certificate.

The IDs, which are free, will be issued to voters for a 10-year period and can only be used for voting purposes. For Pennsylvania-born voters, PennDOT will still use the process of confirming birth records electronically with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to issue non-driver’s license photo IDs for voting.

When requesting these IDs, voters will need to affirm they do not possess any other approved identification for voting purposes. They will be asked to provide two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill, along with their date of birth and Social Security number, if the customer has an assigned number. PennDOT will validate the voter registration status with the Department of State while the voter is in the PennDOT office. Upon confirmation of this information, the voter will be issued the voter card before leaving the PennDOT facility.”

I’m not clear as to whether people need to bring the SS card or just provide the number. Either way, this is a clear improvement over the previous requirements. It still means that people who don’t drive, and who may have limited mobility need to take part of a day to get the right to exercise a right they may have done for years. It’s still a barrier, and an unnecessary one.

Stop the Impostors!

The PA State Senate voted Wednesday to pass Republican-inspired House Bill 934, which requires all voters (not just first-time voters) to show approved photo ID at the polling place in order to be allowed to vote. This will clearly stop the horrible epidemic of people pretending to be their neighbors and sneaking in to vote for them. Ha! That’ll be a good trick on Porter, someone will come to the polling place, say they’re me and vote Republican! Of course, I’m one of the election inspectors who signs people in to vote (and matches their signature with the one in the log of registered voters) so that might not work too well. But they could pretend to be someone else in Chadds Ford—unless of course we knew the person, or the impostor was the wrong age or had the wrong signature. Impostor voting is the kind of thing that wouldn’t be very secret because it would be immediately apparent when the real person came in to vote. But I’ve never heard anyone describe this—not even the right wingers who rail about “voter fraud” (the issue there is registering voters).

 So what’s the deal with what appears to be a solution in search of a problem? Well the “problem” is pretty clear. Who doesn’t have photo ID? I mean, does anybody not have photo ID these days? Well, about 10-15% of the very youngest and the very oldest registered voters do not, and about 25% of the voting poor lack such ID. Except for the elderly, these people skew Democratic. If the Republicans can put up some barriers to them voting, they’ll get an edge. Huge difference? Not really, but when 51%-49% is considered a solid election victory, then a couple percent fewer Democratic votes is well worth gunning for.

Now the argument is that people who don’t have photo ID can go get a non-driver photo ID from the DMV. Of course if you don’t drive, getting to the DMV is your first issue. Then you need (per :

  • One form of acceptable identification (birth certificate with raised seal, valid passport, certificate of citizenship or naturalization)
  • 2 proofs of residency
  • Your social security card
  • $10

 Barrier to voting, anyone?