Government
7:56 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Report: Seniors Could Be Disenfranchised by Voter ID Law

A Pittsburgh-based labor group has released a report that estimates 13% of Pennsylvania seniors currently lack the photo identification required to vote under the state's new voter ID law.

However, the Pennsylvania Department of State said it's undertaking a grassroots campaign to educate seniors about the new voting requirements.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO said more than 237,000 registered senior voters in Pennsylvania don't currently have a valid government-issued ID or any other kind of approved voter ID card. Polling places will accept photo IDs from secondary schools and senior centers as valid identification as long as they have an expiration date.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale said the new law disproportionately affects minority and senior voters.

"Our research provides further evidence that this ill-conceived piece of partisan legislation presents significant harm in much greater numbers than the mere 1% [of Pennsylvanians without ID] the Governor and Republican legislators first claimed when they hatched their voter suppression scheme," said Bloomingdale in a news release.

The voter ID bill was passed through both chambers of the state legislature by GOP majorities and signed into law by Republican Governor Tom Corbett earlier this year. Several groups have challenged the measure in court, including Allegheny County officials and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Department of State spokesman Nick Winkler said the state government is making a "grassroots" effort to educate seniors about voter IDs.

"We have Department of State officials, as well as some firms that we have hired for our educational campaign, that are traversing the commonwealth and meeting with different senior citizen groups, different senior events that are being hosted by different representatives," said Winkler. "We are meeting with different churches throughout the commonwealth ... [and] having meetings at care facilities."

Winkler said it's part of a $5 million educational outreach effort to spread the word about the new voter ID law. He said the campaign is funded by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). That effort also includes a newly updated website with voter ID information and the answers to frequently asked questions.

Activists Deliver Anti-Voter ID Petition to Allegheny County Elections Division

On Tuesday afternoon, about fifteen activists delivered a petition to the Allegheny County Elections Division, asking Elections Manager Mark Wolosik to ignore the voter ID law in the November 6 election if it's not put on hold by the courts.

Protest organizer and Steel Valley School District teacher Steve Singer said about 2,200 people signed the online petition.

"It's kind of a no-win situation, because if [Wolosik] doesn't enforce the voter ID law, he's violating the law," said Singer. "But if he enforces the voter ID law, he's violating the Constitution, and we think it's more important to stick with the Constitution than some ridiculous new law."

Singer said the 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits impediments to voting, such as a poll tax or a literacy test.

"If you look at each of those things individually, you can make a good argument for them. A poll tax -- it costs money to vote; shouldn't people have to pay? A literacy test -- you want your smartest people to have a say in the government; shouldn't they have to pass a certain test? But these are discriminatory practices that keep away certain segments of the population," said Singer, "and it's the same thing with voter ID."