Voter ID card issues slow trial
HARRISBURG — The eighth day of a trial on Pennsylvania's voter identification law ended in disarray Wednesday as plaintiffs' attorneys contesting the law's constitutionality refused to rest their case until they learn more about potential problems in issuing mandatory photo ID cards.
Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley expressed impatience at the slow pace of the trial and cleared the courtroom briefly to huddle with lawyers from both sides, but court recessed for the day with little sign of a compromise. The state did, however, present some testimony in defense of the law.
At issue are about 500 registered voters who were rejected for a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation identification card last year and were referred to the Department of State for a free, voting-only ID card developed in August. The Department of State card was offered as a last resort for voters who certify that they do not have other IDs acceptable for voting.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say more than 100 of those voters applied for a special voting-only ID card before the 2012 presidential election, but did not receive them until after the election or, in some cases, not at all.
Enforcement of the March 2012 voter ID law has been blocked by court orders since before the election, but lawyers say last year's cases point up the possibility that future voters could be disenfranchised by the law — the central issue in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs' cite their consultant's projections that the law would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.
“There's a lot of ways that this law disenfranchises people, but this is a very direct way,” said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, a member of the plaintiffs' legal team that includes the NAACP, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and the Homeless Advocacy Project.
PennDOT confidentiality restrictions limited disclosures about some of the voters in question, fueling the mutual distrust that is increasingly apparent between the two sides.
Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the state legal team, said the voters cited by the plaintiffs include 144 voters who wound up obtaining a PennDOT ID card after all and should not have been included on the list. Most of the others have received either a PennDOT ID, a “secure” card that requires documentation, or the easier-to-obtain Department of State card, he said. The rest were rejected by county officials, rejected for failing to register to vote, or are awaiting confirmation of registration, he said.
Two Corbett administration officials testified as the respondents opened their case Wednesday.
Kelly O'Donnell, operations and management director at the state Department of Aging, conceded under questioning by the plaintiffs' attorneys that she put out erroneous information about the photo ID requirement after its March 2012 approval.
O'Donnell said she erred in telling a local senior center last year that voters could get the IDs from any PennDOT photo center, when most people seeking IDs need to go to one of the fewer PennDOT licensing centers. Subsequent testimony indicated it was an easy mistake to make.
Kurt Myers, a PennDOT deputy secretary, testified that PennDOT has 71 licensing centers, each with its own photo center, plus at least 28 stand-alone photo centers.
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: Suspect Frein in Pa. trooper ambush ‘extremely dangerous’
- Manchin, Toomey to seek greater flexibility for veterans’ career counselors
- Comcast cuts showings of anti-pigeon shooting commercial featuring Barker
- Police: Drunk prowler stole only Altoona couple’s candy
- Retiring circuit judge, a Carnegie native, ‘helped tutor generations’
- Activist spotlights nation’s food waste with Pa. stop
- Man charged in slaying reported voices, police say