BOOMERANG? Voter-ID Could Be Bane For Dems – Or Boon

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BY JOE SHAHEELI/ Who would believe a law Democrats saw as costing them votes and Republicans as a way of stemming a flood of Democrats voting this November, is doing just the opposite?

The new voter-ID law, passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly, requires everyone voting this November to present a legitimate photo ID at the polls. Though Pennsylvania has a Democrat registration lead of 1.1 million, Democrats at all levels immediately voiced alarm the bill would handicap their seniors and indigent voters who were most likely not to have photo IDs. Republicans saw it as a way of curbing possible illegal voting, eyeing “overenthusiastic” Democrat participation.

The battle to have it rescinded has moved into the courts, where it is now climbing up the rungs toward the State Supreme Court. Yesterday, a coalition of opponents presented their case in Commonwealth Court.

The Feds this week, in what can only be construed as stoking the fire of voter resentment to increase voter turnout, indicated its Justice Dept. would review the ID law for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

African American senior voters, predominantly Democrats, were regarded by anti-photo-ID opponents as targeted victims. They labeled it another form of poll tax.
Though Democrats continue to ferret out more stats from a variety of sources indicating hundreds of thousands of Democrats could lose their voting privileges, no one is sure just how many fit into that class.

Some experts say it could impact as few as several thousand voters; other experts, as much as several hundred thousand. A check of the Commonwealth’s state and county election boards have come up with differing totals involving their counties. PennDOT, which provides photo IDs, has still another set of stats.

EDUCATING voters on requirements of voter photo-ID legislation were State Sens. LeAnna Washington and Shirley Kitchen and visitor former 8th Dist. Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller.

No matter what the numbers, the GOP’s General Assembly and Gov. Tom Corbett have handed the Democrats a trump card in energizing their base. Democrat leadership is no longer concerned as much as 15% of their base would not be going to the polls to vote in November. Rallies around the state and this city are bringing attention to the controversy, with volunteers responding to the party’s calls. Even now they are ringing and knocking at the doors of every Democrat suspected of not having a proper voter ID.

Senior leaders and senior advocates have adopted the rallying cry they would not be subject to “another form of polls tax and won’t be denied their privilege to vote.”

State Sens. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) and Shirley Kitchen (D-N. Phila.) led the latest crusade, staging a rally in Germantown. Washington declared, “At a time when we should be working together to solve Pennsylvania’s problems, the Senate Republicans have instead voted to waste precious taxpayer funds. They claim this legislation will reduce voter fraud in Pennsylvania, despite the fact our Commonwealth has some of the lowest rates of fraud in the country.”

Kitchen noted between her district and Washington’s, there are an estimated 70,000 votes that are registered, but may not have picture IDs. “Are they to lose their rights to vote?” she asked.

Washington hosted the conference at Center in the Park in Philadelphia, a popular senior facility in Germantown. She noted older citizens – along with the poor, students, veterans, and women – will be disproportionately affected by the new identification requirements.

“Both Sen. Kitchen and myself are concerned about our seniors,” Washington said. “Even though they have been our most-dedicated voters, they will be the ones that are most affected.”
As part of an education initiative, Washington’s office will work with local businesses, schools, senior facilities, organizations, and churches to help inform residents of the provisions of the new law.

“We must act now – each of us – to inform voters and assist them in getting the necessary documentation in enough time to exercise their right to vote,” Washington continued.
Washington also lamented the process by which this Republican-sponsored legislation was enacted. She noted despite the Senate Democratic Caucus’ efforts to improve the bill, the resulting law is a one-sided and expensive overreach in a state with one of the lowest instances of voter fraud in the country. “The Senate Democratic Caucus and others have already filed legal challenges against this terrible law,” Washington concluded.

FORMER City Managing Director Joseph Certaine points to Voter ID Coalition, identifying HQ he directs at 310 W. Chelten Avenue. Headquarters is rallying point for groups fighting photo-ID legislation and now alerting citizens how to get IDs.

The voter-ID battle followed party lines in Philadelphia as Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt unveiled his investigation of cases of voter fraud in the primary. He said he found between 200 and 1,000 irregular votes cast in the 2012 primary elections. Democrat City Commissioner and Chairwoman Stephanie Singer said the study didn’t show conclusive evidence.

Singer claims fraud is not the problem, citing the state Dept. of Elections report an additional 572,000 Pennsylvania voters may not have a valid PennDOT-issued ID in time for the election. An initial analysis of those data received increases the total number of people in Philadelphia who may be ineligible to vote on Nov. 6 to at least 282,609.

As a result of the uproar, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele announced the creation of a new card that can be issued to voters who need photo identification under Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law. To be issued by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation, it will be available to registered voters who are not able to provide all of the documents they would normally need to obtain a photo ID from PennDOT, such as a birth certificate.

Dennis Lee, Deputy Commissioner and chief of staff in the office of Commissioner Singer, said the announcement “PennDOT will begin issuing a new form of voter ID in September is small comfort to the thousands of voters being impacted. We are concerned this large volume of voters without IDs – a number that seems only to increase with every new list we receive from the State – cannot be adequately served by PennDOT.”

According to the figures provided by the Dept. of State, PennDOT would have to issue over 15,000 ID cards every business day between Aug. 26, the date the procedure is supposed to take effect, and Election Day. “This is why Commissioner Singer signed onto the City’s amicus brief,” cited Lee, referring to a lawsuit brought by ACLU, Public Interest Law Center, and other concerned groups. “Philadelphia voters are in jeopardy at this point.”

The new voter photo identification cards are scheduled to be available at PennDOT’s Drivers License Centers beginning the last week of August. The identification cards can be issued to registered voters who may not have all of the documents necessary to obtain a non-driver’s-license photo ID from PennDOT, primarily a birth certificate.

The IDs, which are free, will be issued to voters for a 10-year period and can only be used for voting purposes. For Pennsylvania-born voters, PennDOT will still use the process of confirming birth records electronically with the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health to issue non-driver’s-license photo IDs for voting.

When requesting these IDs, voters will need to affirm they do not possess any other approved identification for voting purposes. They will be asked to provide two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill, along with their date of birth and Social Security number, if the customer has an assigned number. PennDOT will validate the voter-registration status with the Dept. of State while the voter is in the PennDOT office. Upon confirmation of this information, the voter will be issued the voter card before leaving the PennDOT facility.

How many voters will be impacted by the State’s new voter-ID law remains a mystery.

The Dept. of State reports 758,000 registered state voters (9.2%) do not have the two commonest forms of photo ID that will be accepted at the polls on Nov. 6: a driver’s license or a non-driver’s photo ID. In Philadelphia, the number soars to 187,000, nearly one in five of all registered voters.

The Committee of Seventy and 115 state, regional and city organizations – known as the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition – are alerting everyone to insure they have a photo ID for voting if they don’t have one.


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