Are There More than 758,000 PA Voters Without ID?
New information compiled by the AFL-CIO shows that not only do more than 1 percent of people lack ID, as previously estimated by the Corbett administration, but that the number may be even higher than the 9.2 percent estimate – with some putting it as high as 20 percent, or 1.6 million.
The numbers aren’t crystal clear.
Previous data showed that, using a comparison of voter rolls with PennDOT databases, 9.2 percent of PA’s 8.2 million voters lack ID. That adds up to about 758,000 people.
Department of State spokesperson Ron Ruman had said that count was high, that the numbers included inactive voters who had not participated in an election with the past four years – attributing the number to students who had since graduated and left the area.
However, new data shows that there are also a number of people who have proper PennDOT ID that expired in November 2011, and that if those people do not renew their licenses or have not obtained other ID, the number of voters unable to cast their ballot would jump dramatically.
According to Daniel Denvir of Philadelphia’s City Paper, the AFL-CIO’s voter file is seven months old, so the numbers could be an undercount.
Here is the report:
The number of Pennsylvanians who might not have the photo identification necessary to vote this November has more than doubled: at least 1,636,168 registered voters, or 20 percent of Pennsylvania voters, may not have valid PennDOT-issued ID, according to new data obtained by City Paper. In Philadelphia, an enormous 437,237 people, or 43 percent of city voters, may not possess the valid PennDOT ID necessary to vote under the state’s controversial new law.
“Those are the numbers we sent,” says Nick Winkler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, when asked to confirm the data. “If you want to add them together, I think it’s misleading.”
The number of voters who will lack proper ID is indeed indeed impossible to determine: Some voters without PennDOT ID may be inactive, or have a valid form of federal or student identification, while others without proper ID may not have yet registered to vote.
“The database was never meant to say ‘this is how many people don’t have IDs,’” says Winkler, emphasizing that this office is focused on ensuring that all Pennsylvanians have the proper ID in November. “You guys want specific numbers that don’t exist, and those numbers change on a daily basis.”
But it is the state’s very inability to determine a final estimate of just how many Pennsylvanians might be impacted by the law that has fueled criticism.
“The reality is that thousands more Philadelphians will be impacted by the voter ID law than was originally maintained by the State Department,” says Ellen Kaplan of the good government group Committee of Seventy, which is working to help people get valid ID. “Even taking the lowest possible number, it’s a huge hurdle to overcome.”
There is obviously some crossover between the numbers. The PennDOT data accounts for those who lack ID, and the AFL-CIO’s numbers are of voters whose ID has expired – and have lacked ID for eight months now. Many of them likely fall into the first PennDOT database. And, of course, there are expired voters in their ranks.
Correction: The AFL-CIO checked its list against the PennDOT database and the statewide voter file to ensure that there were no repeats.
“This guarantees that every person on the list of over 1.6 million is an individual voter who, at the time PennDOT pulled their database in June, did not have a drivers license or state ID that could be used for voting,” said a spokesperson.
So while it is doubtful that there are 1.6 million voters without ID (given that there are inactive voters in that list), the number is certainly higher than even the previous 758K estimate. This data comes on the heels of several recent developments in the Voter ID saga.
A new form of ID
After releasing data earlier this month that showed a higher percentage of voters lack ID – including 1 in 5 Philadelphians – the Department of State announced this week the creation of a new ID card to be made available at the end of August good for voting purposes only.
This new ID requires only two documents to prove residency and memorization of one’s own birthday and Social Security Number; designed to make it easier for people to obtain ID, its critics claim it was a strategic move to quash criticism that the state was establishing a poll tax on those who could not afford or could not obtain their original birth certificate or Social Security card, among other documents needed for a non-driver state ID.
And that’s not all.
Investigation and lawsuit
The Department of Justice has begun its probe into whether Voter ID complies with federal law, or whether it is racially based and intended to disenfranchise certain voting blocs. Investigators are requiring the Corbett administration to turn over documents that they used to support their original claim that a mere 1 percent of voters would be affected by the law.
And with opening arguments being heard today in the Viviette Applewhite et al vs. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the stage is set.
Both sides agreed to some stipulations about the case earlier this month that prevents the Commonwealth from presenting evidence regarding in-person voter fraud – the only type of fraud the law can prevent or deter, and also the less common type behind absentee ballot fraud.
Arguments were heard in Harrisburg this morning, with Judge Robert Simpson saying he expects to make a decision by the week of August 13. This will allow time for appeals before E-Day.
Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that David Gersch, attorney for the plaintiffs, said two of the plaintiffs in the case are not the exception, but, rather, the rule – and that maybe they are just two of the 1 million people who lack proper documentation to obtain an ID.
Gersch also referenced the stipulation agreement, saying that by signing it the state has said that the previous voting system worked because “it neither knows of cases of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania nor will argue that in-person voter fraud is likely in November without the voter ID law.”
Langley reported that attorney for the defense, Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley, pointed to the new Department of State ID in his opening remarks. He cited is as an example of the state trying to accommodate more voters, and alleviating some concerns about the cost and hassle of obtaining proper documentation to get an ID.
Cawley also said the state does not need to prove in-person fraud to defend the law. He said legislators met their constitutional burden by thinking of a reason why the law should exist, then voting on and passing said law.
The PA NAACP rallies
Spurred by the impending hearing, the PA NAACP held a “Rally for Justice” yesterday at the state Capitol attended by more than 200 people. Protesters and speakers included labor and women’s groups, all claiming that the law is intended to suppress turnout and disenfranchise Democratic voters.
They pointed to the now-infamous comments made by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) in a story broken by PoliticsPA last month. What Turzai said while speaking at the GOP’s state committee meeting is seen by some as evidence that the law was politically motivated.
Protesters were locked out of a news conference held later that day by Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, who said she is complying with the Department of Justice and believes the law will pass constitutional scrutiny.
“The state Pennsylvania believes that the law passed by the General Assembly is valid and will sustain any kind of test,” she said.
Aichele added that the PA Voter ID law is similar to a voting law in Indiana which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.
“And we are being called into question under Section 2 not Section 5,” she said. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires states with a history of voter discrimination to have their laws pre-approved, such as those in South Carolina and Texas.
The Justice Department has blocked enforcement of both South Carolina’s and Texas’ Voter ID laws while the states bring their cases before federal judges.
But Aichele said the key difference is that these states “have past histories of discrimination. Pennsylvania does not. So we would fall under the same category as Indiana.”
Aichele also dismissed the notion that the number of voters without ID is at 758,000 – let alone higher. She said once U.S. Census data of people 18 and older is compared with the PennDOT database, the number is likely closer to 100,000, and that her department is making every effort to inform the public about Voter ID.