Voter ID case focuses on statistics
HARRISBURG — A statistics expert defended his estimate that “hundreds of thousands” of Pennsylvania voters lack the photo identification they need to vote under a temporarily suspended state law whose constitutionality is on trial in a state court.
Philadelphia consultant Bernard Siskin, hired by the plaintiffs who sued over the March 2012 law, described in detail his research based on a comparison of people on the Pennsylvania Department of State's statewide voter-registration database and a similar database maintained by PennDOT, which issues state driver's licenses and two other IDs acceptable under the law.
That analysis showed that, as of this spring, about 511,000 registered voters either lacked one of the PennDOT-issued IDs or have IDs that have expired or will expire before the Nov. 5 election.
Siskin's testimony bolsters the plaintiffs' central claim in the state Commonwealth Court trial that the law, one of the strictest in the nation, cannot be implemented without disenfranchising a large segment of Pennsylvania's 8.2 million voters.
But the state's statistics expert, William Wecker, has criticized Siskin's research in confidential court papers, excerpts from which the plaintiffs' attorney displayed on a large video screen. Wecker said Siskin's analysis exaggerates the problem by ignoring the fact many voters have other acceptable IDs that are available outside of PennDOT, such as IDs from many universities or the armed forces. He also has said the research includes voters who don't require IDs because they vote by absentee ballots.
Alicia Hickok, a lawyer with the Drinker Biddle & Reath firm and a member of the state's legal team, quizzed Siskin at length about his knowledge of the nooks and crannies of Pennsylvania's voting system, ranging from the non-photo ID cards available to people with religious objections to having photographs taken to the ban on incarcerated felons casting ballots.
Siskin acknowledged that incorporating those variables would reduce the estimated number of voters lacking ID, but he criticized Wecker's methodology and said he stands by his estimate of hundreds of thousands.
Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state's legal team, said its lawyers will argue that the special, free photo ID card sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Department of State and issued by PennDOT to voters who cannot obtain an ID through other sources should resolve any lingering problems for registered voters.
“One hundred percent of all eligible voters in Pennsylvania can get photo ID if they need photo ID,” he contended.
The plaintiffs include the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, the NAACP and Philadelphia's Homeless Advocacy Project.
They hope to overturn the law pushed through by the Legislature's Republican majority and GOP Gov. Tom Corbett during the latest presidential election campaign. It has yet to be enforced, however, because the court blocked it in the general election last fall and the judicial and municipal primary in May.
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.
- Police: Some pictured on Penn State frat sites come forward
- Judge: Gas pipeline can cross holdout Pennsylvania properties
- Pa. police officer charged with homicide for shooting unarmed man in back
- Authorities investigate racist letter to Pa. state police pick Brown
- PennDOT turns to roundabout intersections, citing safety, cost
- Penn State leader panned for anti-war visit
- ‘Repulsed’ Penn State president to study Greek activities