Street Corner Soapbox: Where does voter ID stand in Pennsylvania?

Categories:  Street Corner Soapbox    Opinion    News & Politics
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 at 8:30 AM
Street Corner Soapbox: Where does voter ID stand in Pennsylvania? by Jay Stevens
contributed

You remember the law that the commonwealth passed. Essentially, it boils down to this: You needed show proper identification to vote. That identification had to be a state-issued card, U.S. armed forces card, an ID issued by a state-care facility, or a Pennsylvania college or university ID card. If you didn’t have one of these ID cards, tough luck. Your constitutional right to vote didn’t mean squat.

Only a Pennsylvania judge a few weeks ago ordered the state not to enact the law for the upcoming election. Why? Judge Robert Simpson ruled that the state hadn’t done enough to provide photo IDs for voters that lacked them. Simpson feared too many voters would be disenfranchised.

This is a good thing. It turns out that photo ID cards necessary to vote required an expiration date -- and Penn State student ID cards, for one, lack expiration dates.

The university quickly added them to the cards of incoming freshmen and provided university-issued stickers with expiration dates for upperclassmen, but required the students to report to “pick-up locations” to get their stickers -- and given the lack of communication about the law and the stickers, it’s far too likely many students would have shown up at their polling places only to be turned away.

Penn State students are only one example of the different demographics of voters that would have suffered disproportionately under an active voter ID law. Elderly, poor, and minority voters were also more likely to be lacking proper ID – and also are more likely to lack the means to acquire them. They are the least likely groups to have adequate transportation to ID-issuing locations, the public records such as birth certificates required to get a valid ID, or the time to acquire IDs. But then, that’s the plan, isn’t it? Those groups are the most likely to vote Democratic, and Republican strategists are on record saying voter ID laws weaken Democratic turnout. Former political director of the Texas Republican Party Royal Masset said in a 2007 interview with The Houston Chronicle that a voter ID law would “add 3 percent to the Republican vote.”

But even though Pennsylvanians are not required to have a photo ID to vote – we’ll all be asked for photo ID at the polls, but will still be allowed to vote if we don’t have photo ID – the damage may already by done. That’s because there’s still so much confusion about the photo IDs. A Pennsylvania Department of State advertising campaign, for example, features “Show It” in huge letters – while the disclaimer that photo ID isn’t required to vote only appears in small type. Other messages are just plain wrong. The Philadelphia power company PECO, for example, sent with its billing letters to its 840,000 customers a note saying voters must have photo ID to vote.

The result may be that many potential voters will simply stay home on Election Day, for fear they’ll be turned away for not having a state-issued photo ID card. If that’s the case, then Pennsylvania’s law worked as it was intended to, even as it was halted by Judge Simpson.

You do not need a photo ID to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Pass it on.

Jay Stevens can be contacted at Jay@ErieReader.com.

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 15
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

Philly band to visit Cleveland and Pittsburgh during a three-month tour in support of its excellent new album.

Sarah Palin is launching a new internet television channel that's pure politics and anything for money.

The University of British Columbia may have said Erie is an "unhappy" city. We happen to disagree!

Like it or not, the 2016 Presidential Campaign is underway. If Republicans have any chance of winning, they have to back a loser. 

Festival fashion is all about creating a funky, boho look that you could rarely get away with on a typical day.

IN THIS ISSUE

Festival fashion is all about creating a funky, boho look that you could rarely get away with on a typical day.

When the heat is just too much or the rain forces us indoors, board games are always there keep us company.

The parody artist returneth.

The Welsh alternative band that has always used its music to rail against war, injustice, and apathy tones down their politics a bit a delivers a catchy and likable album.

In an age where plenty of material goods are shipped in from overseas, the bright minds nominated in the Design Competition are trying to bring some innovation to Erie, Pa. at the Erie Art Museum.

Imagine a backyard party, but one with awesome jam bands that lasts two days. Head to the Gathering at Chaffee’s in Girard to make your vision a reality.

Terrifying funk from beyond the grave...

A great expression of nearly flawless hardcore, lyrically diverse, and pulsating formula, From Parts Unknown hits hard and fast.

Mark Twain? Cross-dressing? People faking their own deaths? Yep -- this one has it all.

If this album doesn't inspire you to play, nothing will.