Purpose of Pa. Voter I.D. Law "Appears to Be a Sham"

Political analysts say Pa. voter I.D. law potentially disenfranchises hundreds of thousands

Written by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young


What should we think about Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law set to take effect for the 2012 presidential election? The every time they vote.

Enacted this spring, it unleashed a cascade of contention since Governor Tom Corbett signed it in March. It has been hailed, assailed, praised, condemned, defended, attacked, cursed and blessed.

Most Pennsylvanians like it according to polls, although the same polls suggest many don’t understand it well. The law’s goal, to prevent voter fraud, enjoys universal support, yet doubt exists that much fraud actually exists.

Sorting out the facts of Voter ID—many of which we are only now learning—doesn’t paint an encouraging picture.

  • The law’s purpose appears to be a sham.

Its stated objective, to prevent voter fraud, seems to be a classic case of a solution looking for a problem. Evidence of significant voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.

Nationally, not a single person was found guilty of impersonating another voter between 2002 and 2007 (the latest data available). A GOP advocacy group last year did identify 400 fraud prosecutions over the previous decade. Even if true, however, this would still be less than one fraud a year per state.

In Pennsylvania alone, there have been only four fraud convictions over the last eight years, none of which would have been prevented by the new law.

  • The law potentially disenfranchises hundreds of thousands.

Using data recently released by the Corbett administration, some 750,000 Pennsylvanians could be barred from voting by the law.

But legislators voting for the bill in March were told the law would affect as few as one tenth of one percent of voters. The highest estimate was put at 100,000 voters. Putting the kindest construction on it, the March legislation was sloppily prepared before being rushed through the legislature without consideration of its potential impact.

  • The law is politically motivated.

Voter suppression (i.e., discouraging certain groups from voting) is apparently the real motivation of the law. Republicans have frantically denied this, but their own House majority leader publicly acknowledged it last month.

Showing perhaps more candor than canniness, Representative Mike Turzai implied the law had the partisan goal of winning the presidential election for Mitt Romney.

“Voter ID,” proclaimed Turzai, “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Smoking guns don’t get clearer than that.

  • The law is discriminatory.

It disproportionately hits Democratic voters, notably older, younger, minority and poor voters. However, it also will affect Republican voters statewide.

The GOP stronghold of Cumberland County is estimated to have the largest number of affected voters outside Philadelphia. Cumberland is closely followed by Republican Cameron County.

The stunning high numbers of voters involved evoke sordid memories of voters suppression techniques practiced in the American South in the pre-civil rights era.

  • The law is duplicative.

Almost undiscussed is that Pennsylvania already has a voter ID law in place for first-time voters. It is one that has been neither difficult to implement nor controversial.

Now, by replacing a simple law that works with a convoluted one that won’t, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that more sinister motives were at work in passing Voter ID. In fixing what was not broken, the legislature risks breaking what was already fixed.

  • The legislation is untested.

The Corbett administration ran a trial run of Voter ID during the spring 2012 primary, but with few races and low turnout, it provided no real test of what will happen during a close presidential election with high turnout.

We are barely 12 years from the national agony suffered in 2000 in the disputed Bush/Gore election. But that electoral calamity may be mild compared to what these voter ID laws can produce. And counting Pennsylvania, some 30 states may have new voter ID laws on their books by November.

The conclusions are inescapable.

Voter ID was not well thought out, planned or executed. Many legislators voting for it did not know how many people would be affected. In addition, the noxious whiff of voter suppression motives is pervasive. There cannot be a greater crime in a democracy than systematically attempting to prevent eligible voters from exercising the franchise. It’s truly a repulsive act.

What should we do now?

Common sense screams the obvious solution.

We should simply suspend implementation of the new law until an election or two of trial runs shows us how it works and with what effects. Rolling it out in the middle of a presidential contest is sheer folly.

There are many ways to delay implementation. The simplest is for Governor Corbett to declare a moratorium on applying Voter ID until it has been thoroughly studied. The courts can also do it, and many believe they will.

However we do it, the 2012 presidential election is the wrong time to introduce Voter ID to Pennsylvania. In an age of seemingly insoluble problems and endless challenges, this is one we can still avoid.

sherry July 18, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I don't see a problem with requiring ID. I only wonder why it took so long to do this. Yes, I have to show my ID everywhere just like everyone else does. Instead of complaining about it, get up off your couch if you don't have one and do it before November comes around.
Daryl Nerl (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 12:17 AM
And how did your 89-year-old mother get to a PennDOT office to get her ID? Did you drive her? Are you offering rides to the 22,000 registered voters in the Lehigh Valley who do not have photo IDs now? Where is the common sense folks? They don't have IDs because they don't drive. How would you like to be "required" to get to a PennDOT office in the Lehigh Valley to exercise your right to vote when you don't drive? You are taking your own privilege and their rights for granted.
Liberalism is a mental disorder July 18, 2012 at 02:14 AM
You liberals hate this law because you depend on voter fraud. Massive fraud. If you are too stupid to get an ID, you probably should not vote anyway. Too many stupid voters is a big big problem.
Liberalism is a mental disorder July 18, 2012 at 02:16 AM
You don't need proof. It makes total sense to have to prove who you are before you vote. Unions do it. You need an ID to get into an Obama speech. Anybody with a brain can figure this out... unless the real objective is keeping the voter fraud machine running.
Liberalism is a mental disorder July 18, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Is every Patch writer a liberal. God this is exhausting. I guess conservatives are too busy working and can't and don't have time to write columns. I guess this is where all the unemployed journalism majors hang out.
Liberalism is a mental disorder July 18, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Ya, it will allow Romney to win by suppressing the KEY fraud vote from Philadelphia and other areas.
Daryl Nerl (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 02:34 AM
You don't need proof to take away the voting rights of 750,000 Pennsylvanians? Well King George, you are clearly in the wrong country and on the wrong Website. If you don't like us, why don't you just go away? We really don't need hateful people here.
Wayne Schissler July 18, 2012 at 03:04 AM
To claim that there is no fraud because there are no convictions is naive. If a political machine/party "owns" the county who is going to prosecute, let alone file a complaint? There are reports of unusually high voter turnouts and numbers that don't match up in PA precincts but I guess these reporters didn't want anything getting in the way of the "sham" sensationalism slant of their piece. http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/04/20/philly-election-officials-take-up-gop-complaints/
Arthur July 18, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I remember, while in Philadelphia, some voting districts had more people voting Democrat than there were registered voters in the district!
matt July 25, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Answer is yes. Most of them are Morning Call cast-offs. What do you expect.
Rosemary B July 25, 2012 at 05:06 PM
My question remains, how do you get to the polling place to vote if you can't even get out to get an ID? And, yes, I would volunteer to drive anyone who needs a ride to get an ID. I believe it will not only make our elections more accurate but improve the quality of life for those who obtain id.
Daryl Nerl (Editor) July 25, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Because polling places are generally walkable from home while PennDOT ID centers are not. This isn't rocket science, Rosemary. But that is a generous offer to give people rides. Should I post an announcement in our Lehigh Valley Patches?
Peter July 25, 2012 at 05:39 PM
"The stunning high numbers of voters involved evoke sordid memories of voters suppression techniques practiced in the American South in the pre-civil rights era." Jeepers Cats, Daryl...can't you find better arguments than using the same tired tactics liberal "journalists" always use? Trying to associate racism to requiring an ID to vote? Really?
Andrew Wilt July 25, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Daryl Nerl - You wrote that driving is a "privilege earned when you obtain a license." Not that this comment is related to voter ID, and I'm not disputing that what you wrote is the case, but I would like to ask you something. At this time, no "license" is needed to walk down the street. No "license" is needed to ride a bike down the street. Why then, the Constitutional right to pursuit of happiness which includes freely traveling about still being in place, is a "license" needed when one uses something with a motor in it to travel down the street?
Walter July 25, 2012 at 11:02 PM
While so many people are asking for proof of this or that … Would someone please show me how this affects either party more than the other?
Jeff Lotte July 26, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Walter, statistics from Philly indicate that there was more votes cast than there are registered voters(living voters anyway) People have checked into this stuff all around the country and have found similar things goin on all over. This is where the problem lies, anyone can walk into the polls and give them a name they read in the obituaries and be given the chance to vote. There is many videos on Youtube showing this.
Peter July 26, 2012 at 10:29 AM
most "journalists" are liberal...they're just like college professors, no real-world experience, no way to relate to the regular working people.
Carl W September 30, 2012 at 07:17 PM
A+++ to authors for last segment. NOW is not the time (if ever) to suddenly implement a law like this. Thank you, Terry & Michael !!!!!
Carl W September 30, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Thank you, Daryl Nerl !
Carl W September 30, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Yes it's free.......to recipient at the moment acquired. It has already cost our State millions !
Carl W September 30, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Thank you, also, "Amend." A-men!!!
Ann Melby Shenkle October 02, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Thank you Patch for a terrific piece exposing the facts on the Republican effort to steal votes. Now the Republicans should be required to pay back every cent that has been wasted passing, enforcing, and defending what should have been obvious from the beginning. If we can't retrieve the cash thrown away on this, we should use our votes to pitch out the Republicans legislators that put the law in play.
Sam Iam October 11, 2013 at 05:33 PM
The folks who scoff because they believe an ID is needed for everything and ID is easy to get fail to consider their particular position in society. The FACT is (yes, it's a fact) a small percentage of Americans do not have ID. While in percentage terms the number is small, in absolute terms, the numbers are large. Consider that 1% of the population is about 4 million people, 0.1% of the population is about 400,000 people. For those people, it can be an ordeal to get an ID (which requires first obtaining a birth certificate, then transportation to a DMV, paying fees, waiting in lines, missing a day at work, etc ... Significant burdens, especially for the poor and elderly.). It is also a FACT that no evidence of fraud at the polls (the kind these ID las might prevent) has actually been presented by proponents of these laws ... However, considerable evidence has been presented that proponents are politically motivated to make voting more difficult for the underprivileged. Finally, what can be said of political representatives who use their position and authority and public funds to advance their careers and political agendas at the expense of the poorest Americans? Can we imagine such people are in the service of responsible government? Are these really the sorts of people who should hold political office? For me the answer is clearly no; these people undermine faith and confidence in the entire system and are worthy of nothing but disdain.
Jeff Lotte October 11, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Sam, surely you jest. Every single time anybody has bothered to check voting records ( which isn't often ) there has been fraudulent votes detected. The main reason that you do not hear about it is because the so called media does not report on it. There is not enough checking of the votes to be able to present a real percentage but the fact that records checked usually have discrepancies is enough for me to want anybody voting for our leaders to prove who they are, just like they have to do to cash their paychecks. BTW, as statistics show, corpses love voting Democrat.
Arthur October 11, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Robert Sentner October 12, 2013 at 10:40 AM
so let me ask you Dale, as you seem to be the expert. what do these people that do not have ID's do when going to Dr's, obtaining most any kind of cold remedy at Walmart, opening a bank account, renting an Apt., traveling, doing any number of things that the MAJORITY of the legal residents of the United states do. wouldn't it make there life so much easier. We can require everyone in the US to have health care but we can't have everyone have a voter ID card. Ridiculous and I am ashamed of you, the 1,000's of service members that have died so as we can have the right to do just that. this isn't a political thing in my eyes its a safety, common sense issue. Explain to me what is wrong with telling people they have a certain amount of time to obtain this. better yet make it part of the social security process and make it a picture ID. Your king Obama has invaded every aspect of our life why not this one ????
Elsa October 12, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Why is it that I need to show I'd to get a bottle of cough syrup? Because they made it a law How come nobody cares if the non ID folks can't buy cigarettes or cough syrup or beer at wegmans. Only for voting does it matter. We have had a year since the last time to get all these people ID. If they are not smart enough to manage this in a year maybe they should not vote
Jeff Lotte October 12, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Gotta wonder why when the talk was about national IDs for all there wasn't near this much resistance from the Dems, I guess they never thought about the voting part of it, corpses can't apply for a real valid ID. As much as I am opposed to a national ID card, maybe that would be the ultimate solution to many of our problems from voter fraud to illegals. It's not like we have the right to privacy any longer anyway, maybe it is time for EVERYONE to carry proof of who they are too.
Amend October 17, 2013 at 08:25 AM
Voter ID won't stop any voting fraud that may actually be occurring. It's a useless layer of bureaucracy; which is something conservatives are supposedly opposed to. It's nothing more than political shenanigans, like gerrymandering. And a national ID card...really? That's about as unAmerican as it gets. If conservatives are afraid of universal background checks on gun purchases cuz it may lead to a gun registry, how could they ever endorse a BS concept like national ID cards?
Arthur October 17, 2013 at 12:02 PM
I can not understand why any sensible person would be against something that makes sure a person going to the polls to vote is actually someone eligible to vote. If there is a better idea than a valid ID please tell me what it is. Right now I need a photo idea to see my doctor, to drive a car, to enter any government building, to collect welfare and get food stamps, to travel outside the country, to cash a check, to buy booze, etc. It seems that voters do most, if not all of these same things, so what is the big deal about a showing proper ID to vote?


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