ALTHOUGH A NEW report issued by City Commissioner Al Schmidt on voting irregularities may be useful in making the City Commissioners' Office more efficient, it is hardly evidence of the kind of widespread voter fraud that a bad state law was designed to fix.
Schmidt's report is limited in scope, covering less than 1 percent of the city's divisions, and its findings are more accurately called "anecdote" than "data": a single instance of voter impersonation; three instances of voters directed to the wrong machines voting in legislative races for districts they didn't live in; a single person who voted twice; and a total of seven non-U.S. citizens who voted in the past 10 years.
We're not dismissing these irregularities, but those numbers are a flea compared with the Godzilla about to crush the rights of citizens via the state's voter-ID law. The new law requires someone to present an approved photo ID to be allowed to vote. (See Page 7 for more information.)
And anyone claiming that it's a simple matter to acquire the proper ID for voting is delusional. Those ID-less voters — estimated to be 9.2 percent of the states's 8.2 million voters — will need to confront a threat far more damaging than anecdotal worries about voter fraud: at least two state bureaucratic machines, PennDOT and the Department of State, that were clearly not designed to accommodate the demand for valid IDs. And frankly, many people's lives are not designed to get their hands quickly on the documentation they might need to get their voter ID. This combo could prove lethal to democracy. Consider:
A student who doesn't have an approved student ID (only some schools issue IDs that can be used for voting) could bring an out-of-state license to get a PennDOT voter ID .?.?. but he or she must surrender the driver's license to get the ID.
Seniors in certain resident facilities may have the proper ID, but not those in others.
Because they don't have expiration dates, neither state- nor municipal-worker IDs are acceptable yet, though the state and the city are working to fix that.
The government of Puerto Rico invalidated all birth certificates issued before 2010, so those born there will have to apply for new ones; this could take months.
It doesn't help that PennDOT doesn't have a Spanish-language website. It doesn't help that the State Department is sending out voter-ID cards after a person has registered to vote, but they are NOT the official ID cards that voters will need to vote. It doesn't help that PennDOT, which has never won awards for efficiency, is going to have to deal with an onslaught of potential voters demanding service.
All this is before we even get to the voting booths, where new IDs will have to be scrutinized and checked for validity, meaning long lines and long delays.