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REPORT: 9% of PA Voters (Not 1%, Like He Said) May Be Disenfranchised by Gov. Corbett’s Voter ID Law

1% of people...9% of people. What's the difference?

A controversial Pennsylvania Voter ID law will affect more voters than previously expected according to state election officials. 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have Transportation Department-issued photo identification cards which means they may not be able to vote in the November election. While a vast majority of probable voters have identification, a full nine percent do not. This figure is much higher than Governor Corbett’s original prediction of one percent. The numbers are particularly staggering in the Philadelphia region.

The new numbers, based on a comparison of voter registration rolls with PennDot ID databases, shows the potential problem is much bigger, particularly in Philadelphia, where 186,830 registered voters - 18 percent of the city’s total registration - do not have PennDot ID.

Under Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, various other forms of photo identification will be accepted at voting places in November, including U.S. passports, student identification cards with expiration dates, current military identification, and ID cards issued to government employees.

But for most voters, the Pennsylvania driver’s license is the standard photo ID. The disclosure that 9 percent of the state’s registered voters don’t have one - or an alternative, nondriver PennDot photo ID - provides a clearer picture of the hurdle set up by the state’s new voter ID requirement.

The numbers give credence to Pennsylvania Democrats’ claims that the Voter ID law is intended to disenfranchise a disproportional amount of probable Obama voters. This fear was exacerbated when Republican Rep. Mike Turzai claimed that the new Voter ID law would, “allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Democrats have clung to these brazen remarks to support the claim that the law is unnecessary and is being championed solely to sway the election in favor of the Republican candidate.

Meanwhile Turzai has managed to make a polarizing issue that much more divided. Democrats have been quick to point to his words as the smoking gun on this issue.

“Pennsylvania already had sufficient safeguards in place to protect against voter impersonation, but apparently they weren’t strict enough to suppress legitimate Democratic voters,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny County.

Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, was more succinct: “We told you so.”

The comment even has made the national rounds and was the butt of jokes on a recent “Colbert Report” where Stephen Colbert said, “Pennsylvania has had a shocking no documented cases of in-person voter fraud,” referring to a comment from the ACLU, which, along with others, is challenging the law in court.

Currently, the case is scheduled to be heard by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on July 25th and his decision is expected to reach the State Supreme Court by November.

Polling numbers in Pennsylvania are swinging in favor of Obama as of late. He holds a 47 to 39 advantage, but with 9 percent of potential voters potentially unable to vote the number could potentially narrow.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsea Wagner recently spoke out about the issue with ThinkProgress.

“What’s truly scary about this report is that it makes my case,” Allegheny County Controller Chelsea Wagner said. “About 10 percent of otherwise eligible Pennsylvanians are disenfranchised by the Voter ID law. That’s not an acceptable number of people to tell that they can’t vote.” Disenfranchised groups, Wagner said, include older residents, students and the poor.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn the law, and Allegheny County Democrats said in June they would file a Commonwealth Court challenge.

Perhaps influenced by the unpopularity of Pennsylvania’s course, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder refused to walk the Tea Party/GOP line when he vetoed a series of similarly voter suppressive laws in his state.

ThinkProgress estimates that 5 million voters could be disenfranchised nationwide.

Nor is Voter ID a lone effort to disenfranchise voters. Republican politicians also pushed limits on early voting and registration efforts, and voter purge efforts that disproportionately affect voters who are more likely to vote democratic. New voter restrictions are also more likely to disenfranchise older voters.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, more than 5 million Americans could be disenfranchised by new laws making it harder to vote. Of the 12 likely background states, five have cut back on voting rights, and, taken together, the states that have restricted voter rights make up 171, or 63 percent, of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidential election.


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