EVEN WITH evidence that more than 750,000 Pennsylvania voters could be disenfranchised, Gov. Corbett is refusing to ask the Legislature to delay implementation of the commonwealth's new voter-ID law. According to a spokesman, the law "protects the integrity of every vote and voter." But the conduct of the Corbett administration is itself raising questions of integrity — and of its commitment to protect the right of all Pennsylvanians to participate in the electoral process.
According to figures released a few hours before the July 4 holiday, 758,939 registered Pennsylvania voters don't have a Pennsylvania driver's license or alternative PennDOT identification. That's 9.2 percent of Pennsylvania's 8.2 million voters. In urban Philadelphia, a full 18 percent of registered voters — 186,830 — do not have PennDOT-issued ID.
While some — not all — other forms of government or university identification are acceptable under the new law, we are still talking about hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians having to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops to vote on Nov. 6.
Compare that to the claim by Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, repeated without documentation for months before and after the passage of the law, that just 1 percent of Pennsylvania voters (a not-insignificant 82,000 citizens) do not already have acceptable ID.
When her department announced the new figures, it made no mention of the huge disparity between what Aichele had been saying and the actual facts. Of course, Aichele and Corbett also have long ignored the fact that there is no hard, or even soft, evidence of a need for a law preventing voter impersonation in this state or others. In fact, a group of Republican lawyers could document only 400 voter-fraud cases in the entire country over a decade, less than one case per state per year. Most of those cases were vote-buying schemes that would not have been prevented by a voter-ID law.
At the same time, there is compelling evidence — and one flat-out confirmation by Pennsylvania's own House majority leader, Mike Turzai — that the avalanche of Voter-ID bills across the nation are really an attempt to keep Democratic voters away from the polls. The people most likely to be without the required ID are members of minority groups, as well as the young and the old, who tend to vote Democratic. A couple weeks ago, Turzai let the truth slip out. In bragging about the law to the state Republican committee, he crowed that it "is going to allow . . . [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." The law rightly has been challenged as a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, with a hearing set in Commonwealth Court for July 25. But Gov. Corbett could dispel suspicion that he supports voter suppression by reversing himself and asking for a delay in implementing the law.
In the meantime, Pennsylvanians without current PennDOT identification can act to protect their rights by beginning the process to obtain acceptable identification. A nonpartisan coalition of more than 100 organizations is ready to help. Check the Committee of Seventy's website (seventy.org) for information or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
Don't let your right to vote be taken away.