Molly Cohen, WLP Intern
When Pennsylvania passed a law earlier this year imposing a voter ID requirement on voting in every election and narrowing the list of acceptable forms of ID, critics quickly pointed out that the law targets specific populations. Low-income voters, racial minorities, and elderly voters are less likely to possess the necessary photo ID. For many, obtaining proper identification entails a descent into the oft unnavigable maze of state bureaucracies. Additionally, despite Governor Corbett’s promise that there would be no financial cost to this process, those who do not have a raised-seal copy of their birth certificate must pay ten dollars to obtain one. Without this, they cannot apply for a photo ID if they have never had PennDOT issued ID before. The cost and effort of this process may dissuade otherwise eligible voters from participating in the coming election.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), the Advancement Project, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter, LLP, filed a lawsuit on behalf of ten Pennsylvania residents who will be unable to cast their votes this November because of the new regulations, alleging that the law creates an “undue burden” on voters without photo identification and disproportionately affects the poor.
However, in addition to targeting the aforementioned marginalized groups, voter rights advocates warn that this issue significantly impacts women across the socioeconomic spectrum. As we explained in an earlier article, women commonly change their names and their addresses to marry or divorce. According to Faye Anderson, the chief spokesperson of a voter information network called the Cost of Freedom Project, approximately 34% of eligible female voters do not possess citizenship documents that bear their current name. Anyone who does not take steps to correct a mismatched last name or outdated address may be unpleasantly surprised to find that she cannot cast a ballot at the polls.
The validity of the Voter ID law is, at best, questionable. Proponents of the legislation peddled it as the cure for voter fraud, yet there is no evidence that any such problem actually exists. While Governor Corbett, who signed the bill, initially claimed that the law would only impact 1% of Pennsylvanians, a new study places the number closer to 9% statewide. In Philadelphia County, 15.6% of active voters do not possess PennDOT ID and may be ineligible to vote. These statistics have been proffered as evidence that the law, which passed along strict party lines, was designed to suppress liberal votes and ensure the GOP retains political primacy in the state. Mike Turzai, the State House Majority Leader, reinforced these concerns when he spoke at a recent Republican State Committee meeting. He named the law as one of the party’s accomplishments for the year: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
A hearing slated for July 25th in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in Applewhite et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al. will determine whether the law will be in effect this November.
Those who oppose the Voter ID Law have organized several protests and events for the week leading up to the hearing in order to increase media attention and public pressure. A partial schedule is included below.
PA Voter ID Coalition Operations Center Open House from 11 am to 2 pm at 310 West Chelten Avenue in Philadelphia
NAACP Rally for Justice at 1 pm at the State Capitol (3rd Street & State Street) in Harrisburg
Hearing in Commonwealth Court to stop the Voter ID Law at 10 am in Courtroom 3002 at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center (601 Commonwealth Avenue in Harrisburg). This is a public hearing, and supporters of the lawsuit are encouraged to attend.
There will also be protests across the state on the same day.
Philadelphia: 11 am – Thomas Paine Plaza (Broad Street & JFK Blvd)
Lehigh Valley: 12 pm – Lehigh County Government Center (7th Street & Hamilton Street, Allentown)
Pittsburgh: 1 pm – Freedom Corner (Crawford Street & Centre Avenue)