Voter ID Opponents Bash New State Law

Sep 12, 2012

Local politicians, labor groups, and community organizations gathered in Pittsburgh City Council Chamber on Wednesday to denounce Pennsylvania's new requirement to require photo identification before voting.  The event came one day before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the new state law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has challenged the voter ID requirement in court, arguing that it unconstitutionally inhibits some Pennsylvanians' ability to vote.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, the organizer of Wednesday's post agenda meeting, said it's a conservative estimate to assume that nine percent of registered Pennsylvania voters don't have proper ID.

"There is no way that [the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation] could process anywhere that number of IDs, based on capacity and based on funding," said Rudiak. "There are 71 PennDOT offices, 13 of them are open only one day a week, and nine Pennsylvania counties have no office at all."

Rudiak said Pennsylvania and its 67 counties will spend millions of dollars to implement the new law, which she said attempts to address a nonexistent problem.

"The state conceded in court, in a court of law last month, that there has never been an investigation, persecution or confirmed in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania," said Rudiak.

The voter ID law was passed earlier this year by the Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. With Justice Joan Orie Melvin suspended from the court, the state Supreme Court is currently split with three Republicans and three Democrats.

Since four votes would be required to strike down the law, the political makeup of the court is a point of concern for Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) Chairman Tim Stevens.

"I am concerned, but I'm hopeful that the Supreme Court justices will take their duties seriously, and in a pure, nonpartisan fashion," said Stevens.

Stevens said the voter ID requirement "flies in the face" of his organization's mission to ensure African-Americans vote in every election.

Bob Wilson of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans said the new law will affect senior citizens as well, many of whom aren't able to easily obtain a valid voter ID before this November's election.

"Just think, if you was (sic) a senior, you're 70, 80, 90, and you're in a wheelchair," said Wilson. "You don't have the access, and you're dependent on everybody to get you to the [Department of Motor Vehicles], which -- they're not up to speed on this, either."

Other speakers argued that the new voter ID law would suppress the vote in certain populations, such as those with epilepsy and other disabilities.