The Unfounded Case Against Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law
August 7, 2012 - 2:04 pm
Like many states concerned over election integrity, Pennsylvania passed a common-sense election reform: voter ID. As a result, it has been targeted in a lawsuit by the ACLU and threatened with litigation by the politically driven Eric Holder Justice Department.
The ACLU lawsuit is unfounded, and the DOJ actions are an abuse of its legal authority as outlined in a previous post by PJ Media Legal Editor Christian Adams.
The Pennsylvania law is not even as restrictive as Indiana’s voter ID, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. It has several exemptions that make it impossible for anyone, including the ACLU, to rationally claim that it will prevent any eligible voter from voting (although that may not prevent a liberal judge from striking it down).
As a summary issued by Gov. Tom Corbett and Secretary of State Carol Aichele outlines, starting with the November 2012 election, the new law requires individuals voting in person to present a photo ID issued:
- By the federal government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, such as driver’s licenses, non-driver’s license IDs, passports, military IDs, and employee IDs;
- By an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning; and
- By a state care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences, and personal care home.
Pennsylvania has combined the ID requirement for in-person voting with a similar requirement for absentee ballots, which many have called the “tool of choice” for vote thieves. Absentee voters must provide either a photocopy of one of the acceptable IDs listed for in-person voting, or their driver’s license number on the absentee ballot application form. Or they can provide the last four digits of their Social Security number if they don’t have a driver’s license.
A Pennsylvania voter who has a religious objection to being photographed can use the “without-photo” ID issued by the state. Anyone who does not have a photo ID can receive one free from the state. If they have an expired Pennsylvania driver’s license or nondriver’s license ID, they can obtain a free photo ID for voting without any supporting documentation.
When voters show up at the polling place without an ID, they will be able to vote with a provisional ballot. That ballot will be counted if the voter provides the county board of election with a copy of acceptable ID within six days of the election by mail, fax, or e-mail.
Despite all this, the ACLU and others (including Attorney General Holder) are falsely claiming that the costs associated with obtaining the supporting documents needed for a photo ID such as a birth certificate make this requirement a poll tax. According to them, those costs will prevent eligible voters from going to the polls. The courts dismissed that argument when it was raised over voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Indiana, and have held that such indirect costs are not a poll tax. But the claim about incidental costs cannot be creditably raised in Pennsylvania. The law specifically provides that the provisional ballot of an individual without a photo ID will be counted if he files an affirmation stating that he is indigent and is unable to obtain the ID without paying a fee such as for a birth certificate. There is simply no barrier to anyone obtaining the ID required to vote.
News reports have published claims being made by the ACLU that up to 1.6 million registered voters do not have an ID. The state did a comparison of its list of 8.2 million registered voters with its driver’s license list of 8.7 million licenses issued to those 18-years of age and older. It found 758,000 registered voters without a DMV ID.
But the state did not do any comparison of the registered voter list with any other databases that contain information on acceptable IDs under the Pennsylvania law, such as the U.S. State Department (passports) and the Department of Defense (military IDs), or all of the other agencies and departments that issue IDs acceptable under Pennsylvania law such as student IDs, government employee IDs, or ID issued by long-term care and assisted living facilities.
There was also no comparison with alien records at the Department of Homeland Security to determine how many noncitizens may be illegally registered to vote, an all-too-common problem in many states.
In fact, the experiences of other states with voter ID laws (Georgia, Indiana), as well as other surveys done of registered voters by reputable sources such as American University, suggest that the number of individuals without a photo ID is extremely small. American University’s study of three states found that number to be under one half of 1 percent.