Study: Black and Hispanic precincts hit harder by Voter ID

An analysis of state data related to Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law suggests that minority voters in Philadelphia will have a tougher time than white voters getting the credentials to vote in the November general election.

The study was done by Tamara Manik-Perlman, a project manager and spatial data analyst at Azavea, the Philadelphia-based data and software firm that distinguished itself last summer by providing population data and computerized mapping tools to let ordinary citizens draw redistricting proposals for City Council. (Council essentially ignored their suggestions.)

Using data provided by Pennsylvania election officials, originally designed to show which voters do not have valid ID from PennDot, the state Transportation Department, Manik-Perlman mapped their voting addresses and correlated the information with race and ethnicity data from the 2010 U. S. Census.

The results, released today (Aug. 2): voters in the city’s most-heavily African-American voting divisions are 85 percent more likely to lack PennDOT credentials than voters who live in predominantly white divisions, according to Manik-Perlman. And voters in heavily-Hispanic neighborhoods are 108 percent more likely – that is, just over twice as likely -- to be without PennDOT ID. She said there was a similar pattern in heavily Asian neighborhoods.

The biggest warning that should be attached to the analysis is, it’s only as good as the data it’s based upon. While nobody is questioning the Census data, the Inquirer reported last weekend  that the state data on PennDot ID is fraught with problems, due to a sloppy comparison of names between the state’s voter registration rolls and PennDot’s license files, mistakenly listing thousands of people as not having PennDot ID when they actually have it.

The state refuses to share PennDot licensing data with the public, making it impossible for Azavea to develop more accurate data on its own. But the U. S. Justice Department requested the PennDot data last week for its own probe of whether the new state ID law violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

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