Voter ID opponents re-energize on eve of trial
HARRISBURG — The state's capital city is “ground zero for voting rights” in the North, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous told a Capitol crowd days before a trial is to start on Pennsylvania's voter identification law.
Jealous spoke at a rally in advance of the case that opens on Monday in Commonwealth Court. Dissecting Act 18, the state's voter ID law, may take as long as two weeks.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Public Interest Center of Philadelphia, and a Washington law firm will argue before Judge Bernard McGinley, a Democrat, that the law must be overturned.
The Pennsylvania Department of State, represented by the Attorney General's Office, the Office of General Counsel, and a Philadelphia law firm will defend the law that Gov. Tom Corbett signed in March 2012.
The court in October partially granted a preliminary injunction. Poll workers in the November election could ask voters to show ID, but they were not obligated to produce one.
Republicans controlling the Legislature pushed the bill, saying it would guard against fraud and maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
The Legislature established “a solution to a problem that did not exist,” Jean Brown, an NAACP vice president, told rallying organizations opposed to the law.
The law's opponents still cite a comment House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, made when he told the Pennsylvania State Republican Committee that the law would let GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania. Romney lost Pennsylvania to President Obama.
Turzai was speaking to a political group and meant that “for the first time, there would be a level playing field,” his spokesman Steve Miskin said.
“There's rhetoric by a lot of parties,” said Nils Frederiksen, the general counsel's spokesman. “At the end of the day, the law is the law.”
Jealous, speaking before a crowd of hundreds, used Turzai's remark as an example of how politicians allegedly try to steal votes. Opponents of the law claim that people who don't have IDs tend to be Democrats, minorities, the elderly and disabled.
“Ludicrous,” Miskin said. “We are trying to prevent people from stealing votes.”
The plaintiffs argue in their latest court brief that at least “tens of thousands of voters will be disenfranchised.” Potentially “hundreds of thousands” lack identification, the ACLU and other challengers claim.
Frederiksen said the reality is that Pennsylvanians registered to vote who don't have photo IDs can get a Department of State card without documentation. They need only to submit a date of birth, a name, an address and the last four digits of a Social Security number. PennDOT driver's license centers have the cards, which are valid for 20 elections over 10 years, he said.
“There is no obstacle,” he said.
Thirty states have voter ID requirements. Only 11 require photo identification cards. Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee have “strict” photo ID requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.
Pennsylvania's law is patterned after the Indiana law, which the Supreme Court upheld.
It might seem to casual observers that Pennsylvania's law has been a moving target in the courts.
The lawsuit challenging the law was filed in May 2012. A hearing on the preliminary injunction took place in July, and a month later, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican, refused to issue an injunction.
The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which returned it to Simpson with narrow parameters. Another hearing took place in September.
In October, Simpson issued the partial injunction to allow people to vote without using provisional ballots.
The law established provisional ballots for voters without adequate photo ID. Under the law, they could vote but had to return to election officials with proper documentation. No such requirement was enforced in November.
Frederiksen said five of seven original plaintiffs who claimed they could not get a photo ID were dismissed from the case.
“The process has evolved. The process has improved,” he said.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McIntyre students hope Buddy Bench is beneficial to all
- Pitt’s Dixon monitoring minutes
- Tomlin: Steelers as healthy as can be expected at this point in season
- Open records office orders Mt. Lebanon to release deer cull emails
- Bowl destination is at stake for Pitt football in regular-season finale
- Vatican puts 5 on trial for leaks
- Rookie linebacker Chickillo adjusting to role with Steelers
- Stocks shake off Middle East tensions, drop in consumer confidence
- Steelers not giving up on wresting AFC North from Bengals
- Steelers notebook: Players get back to work after bye
- Philippines reappraises hoard of Marcos jewelry