A new analysis of voter rolls and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) ID databases reveal a startling reality--758,000 Pennsylvanians, 9.2 percent of the voting population, do not have a photo identification card issued by PennDot. A PennDot ID is one of the few forms of photo ID that will be accepted at the polls in November. The new figures reveal the impact that the strict Pennsylvania voter ID law will have on eligible voters.
The study, released by Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele’s office, contradicts claims Aichele made in support of the legislation. In October 2011, she wrote an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying that “99 percent of eligible voters currently have acceptable photo ID” and that the voter ID law protected voting.
While 9.2 percent of the state’s registered voters are without a PennDot ID, 18 percent of voters in Philadelphia, a majority-minority city, are lacking one. This is unsurprising, since minority voters in general are less likely to have a valid photo ID. Without a PennDot ID, only a few forms of ID remain for voting. Indeed, the number of registered voters without PennDot ID is likely close to the number of registered voters without any form of acceptable voter ID.
While student IDs are one alternative, strict requirements will deny most students the ability to vote with them. Pennsylvania law requires student IDs to have a photo and an expiration date in order to be used as a voter ID. A recent study by PennPIRG suggests that 85% of students in Pennsylvania go to schools without acceptable IDs for voting. An even more recent survey of 186 colleges and universities by the ACLU, Advancement Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, PennPIRG, and Rock the Vote also indicates that most schools’ IDs will not meet requirements to be acceptable ID to vote before the November 2012 election.
Disenfranchising 9.2 percent of the state’s population will have implications for the state and the country. In the 2012, Pennsylvanians will vote for eighteen U.S. congressmen, one U.S. senator and the state will be a pivotal swing state in the presidential election. When Pennsylvania’s strict photo ID law was passed in March 2012, proponents claimed the law was designed to help safeguard elections. However, in-person voter impersonation is virtually non-existent, and according to a recent article is far less common than UFO sightings. The real motivation rears its ugly head in statements such as that of a leading member of the Pennsylvania House, who plainly said that the voter ID law will “allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” It is unfortunate that state legislatures such as Pennsylvania’s continue to play politics with Americans fundamental right to vote.