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Voter ID Debate: What About the Numbers?

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

Carol Aichele

With the November elections less than a month away, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele’s wrote an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer giving weight to current legislating in the state senate that would require photo IDs at the polls.

“A Pennsylvania Department of State analysis shows 99 percent of eligible voters currently have acceptable photo IDs,” she wrote, “and proposals under discussion will likely expand the list of photo IDs that can be used. PennDot will supply a free ID for those who need one, so the greatest possible cost to taxpayers is slightly more than $1 million, a small price to ensure the validity of each vote.”

As a member of the Corbett administration and the Commonwealth’s Chief Election Official, it comes as no surprise that Aichele supports this legislation, something she says is meant to safeguard the right to vote for those who are legally entitled to it.

This bill passed the House in late June with all but one Republican voting for the legisation.  Democrats generally oppose this type of legislation saying it is aimed at disenfranchising the “bus riders” — senior and low-income residents and students — who often do not have driver’s licenses.

Voter ID laws have been a hot topic since the 2010 elections, which left Republicans with control of 59 chambers of state legislatures and 29 governorships. Fourteen other U.S. states have already passed such legislation.

Aichele’s position that requiring voters to provide a government certified photo ID at the polls to protect against voter fraud is nothing new.  However, the statistics she uses to back up her position is what has some heads turning.

Zachary Hoover is Chief of Staff for Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware and Montgomery Counties) who in a recent commentary in The Time Leader said this legislation “will make it harder for people who disproportionately do not vote Republican to vote at all.”

Hoover said the numbers that the Department of State used to arrive at the conclusion that 99% of Pennsylvanians already have adequate IDs to vote under H.B. 934 are based on statistics from PennDOT and the Election Assistance Commission, which show that PennDOT has issued 9.5 million drivers licenses and photo IDs to voting-aged people while  there are an estimated 9.6 million voting aged people in the state.

While Hoover does not question that there are 9.6 million people of voting age, he does take issue with using the number of drivers licenses and photo IDs issued by PennDOT to measure the percentage of Pennsylvanians with valid voter IDs.

“There are many problems with the first number that the Department of State has been unable to clear up for us, and which should have been obvious to them before the Secretary used it in her OP-ED,” said Hoover.

Hoover maintained that the total number of divers licenses and photo IDs issued by PennDOT to voting aged people does not take into account people who no longer vote because they have died or moved out of state. He said it is also not clear if this number includes people who were never eligible to vote because they are not American citizens or are barred from voting due to criminal record.

Hoover pointed out that PennDOT does not specify a time frame and therefore the statistic does not indicate if it includes multiple licenses or IDs issued to the same person, either because they changed their personal information or because they lost their license and needed a replacement.  It also does not indicate if it includes licenses or IDs issued to people living in Pennsylvania but registered to vote in a different state.

“The Department of State is either unwilling to clarify this information with us, or they do not know.  If the latter is the case, it was extremely irresponsible for the Secretary to use it in her OP-ED to reassure voters that their right to the franchise is not being threatened,” said Hoover.

Department of State Spokesman Ron Ruman told PoliticsPA, “We really think the numbers are pretty good. There could be some that fall into each of these categories  but we don’t think it’s substantial.”

Ruman said his department thinks the numbers hold “up in that the vast majority of eligible voters currently have a voter ID.”

Aichele wrote that “the Corbett administration supports requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot: to deter fraud and make sure every person’s vote has the weight it deserves in deciding elections.”

Aichele said the measure is necessary to safeguard one person, one vote and addressed those who believe requiring voter ID’s is an unnecessary hassle.

She said voter fraud is a real issue in Pennsylvania, citing a 2009 FBI investigation that led to forgery and election-fraud charges against seven Pittsburgh-area ACORN workers.  In 2008, a Philadelphia official submitted more than 8,000 fraudulent ACORN-collected voter-registration forms.

She said the Corbett Administration also supports ID measures for absentee ballots.

Sari Heidenreich contributed to this report.

5 Responses

  1. The whole ACORN prosecution has been proven to be trumped up. I would sure trust them over Katherine Harris or Ken Blackwell to make votes count. There is a huge vote-supression effort being led by Republican politicians that care more about ousting President Obama than about real issues. Let us shut it down here in Pennsylvania, now!

  2. I dispute the idea that ID will discourage any legal voter. Those in all income brackets must produce ID almost daily for everything from check cashing to credit card usage to applying for state benefits. I don’t see anyone but a non citizen or a dead person having a real problem and they aren’t supposed to vote are they? Federal rules keep names on registration lists for up to six years after a person’s stopped voting. This has led to bloated, inaccurate lists that invite fraud. If ID requirements existed on the registration end of the process most of this would be unecessary.

  3. Even if we accept Aichele’s number, that’s still 96,000 US citizens. The person charged with protecting the vote for all is willing to disenfranchise nearly 100,000 people.

  4. The issue, as I see it, is if even one individual is denied their right to vote as a result of this requirement, that is a fundamental problem. Arguing over what percentage of individuals who will be disenfranchised is almost beside the point. One thing I noticed: no one is saying that the number will be 0.

  5. To believe Aichele’s numbers, you’d have to assume that all the 18-30 year old drivers out there are all registered to vote! Has she ever met someone in their 20s? Tons of those young adults are not registered.

    Furthermore, has she never met anyone in their 90s? So many elderly people do not have a liscence, but I think we all know that they are almost all registered to vote!

    This is all coming from someone who is an expert at trying to stop people from voting. Aichele tried her best to make sure voting was as difficult as possible for Lincoln University students when she was head of the Election Board in Chester County. She also was at he partisan best when ruling on provisional ballots, upholding every challenge brought by the county GOP to voters even when they appeared before the election board to prove that they were who they said they were.

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