Friday, November 27, 2015

Pa. voter-ID law keeps claiming victims

Add Americans born in Puerto Rico and divorcées to the growing list of Philadelphia voters who could be disenfranchised by Pennsylvania’s modern version of a Jim Crow law. They are likely to fail the bureaucratic test of having a photo ID to vote.

Pa. voter-ID law keeps claiming victims

Rob Rogers / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rob Rogers / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Add Americans born in Puerto Rico and divorcées to the growing list of  Philadelphia voters who could be disenfranchised by Pennsylvania’s modern version of a Jim Crow law. They are likely to fail the bureaucratic test of having a photo ID to vote.

An estimated 9.2 percent of  registered voters who don’t have a driver’s license must produce either a passport, government or in-state college ID, or a non-driving Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ID if they want to vote under the new law, which is  aimed at the virtually nonexistent problem of voter impersonation.

That opens the door for thousands who don’t drive, go to college, or work for the government to become so discouraged by the bureaucratic maze they must navigate to get an acceptable ID that they won’t get to vote — which would be perfectly fine with the people who are wishing for that.

A birth certificate can be used to get a PennDot ID, but Puerto Rico has invalidated its birth certificates issued before July 2010 because illegal aliens there were using fake birth certificates to scam American citizenship. As a result, eligible voters who no longer have valid Puerto Rican birth certificates may not be able to vote.

Divorced women are in trouble, too. Inquirer reporter Bob Warner in an article Wednesday reported the story of a Scranton woman who has a New York driver’s license, but is having trouble getting a Pennsylvania ID because PennDot officials say she must produce the divorce decrees she lost a long time ago to show why her name changed.

A PennDot spokesman said workers can refer complicated cases like the Scranton woman’s to a supervisor who could issue the ID needed to vote with only some of the documentation that the agency would normally require. But that didn’t happen for the divorcée until the Inquirer asked about her situation.

Most of the people who run afoul of the state’s new voter-ID requirements, including a disproportionate number of the elderly, won’t get any similar assistance.  An Inquirer analysis has determined that more than a quarter of Philadelphia’s eligible voters older than 80 don’t have the identification required for them to vote. Among those ages 65 to 79, nearly 20 percent don’t have the right ID.

This is a mean-spirited law solely aimed at disenfranchising the old, young, and poor, who typically vote for Democrats. Republicans are denying that, but House Majority Leader Mike Turzai bragged at a recent party gathering that voter ID would help the GOP win Pennsylvania.

Nineteen states have made voting harder for the old, the poor, and minorities with ID laws that have passed since 2011. But even in Virginia, which also is trying to tamp down turnout, more reasonable rules will allow citizens to use voter-registration cards and utility bills as ID to vote.

As more is learned about the potential impact of the voter-ID law, it becomes clearer that Gov. Corbett and the Republican-led legislature don’t regard voting as a fundamental right of citizenship.

They obviously expect this bureaucratic tangle they have created to do what honest campaigning for the presidency may not.  The sooner a legal challenge to this deprivation of  people’s rights gets to the state Supreme Court, the better.

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