WE DON'T expect governing or lawmaking to be subject to the same meticulous standards as, say, a science lab, but the voter-ID law is unfolding as a prime example of how inefficient, uninformed and just plain screwed up the process can be.
The law, passed in March, require voters to present an approved PennDOT photo ID in order to be allowed to vote. Early on, the Department of State estimated that 99 percent of state residents possessed the proper ID. That "fact" has now been amended twice; most recently, Commonwealth Secretary Carol Aichele found an additional 572,000 voters with expired PennDOT IDs that could lose the right to vote, on top of the 758,000 identified earlier this month. About 18 percent of Philadelphia's voters were among those without a PennDOT ID.
Aside from the disconnect between the new law and the understanding of how many people might be affected, there's also a frightening disconnect between how many people might need PennDOT's services — in a short time — and the department's ability to handle the volume.
The state did announce that it would modify its requirements for the proper ID starting late in August, removing the burden of producing original birth certificates and Social Security cards. Still, as City Commissioner Stephanie Singer pointed out, that would require PennDOT to issue more than 15,000 ID cards every business day between Aug. 26 and Election Day.
It will also require many people to visit PennDOT offices in person. There are five in Philadelphia; most of them close at 4:15 p.m. PennDOT says it has no plans to hire additional workers to handle the volume.
We have reason to hope that this law — designed to combat voter fraud for which no evidence exists — may encounter obstacles that will delay its implementation, since the governor seems unwilling to do so. The ACLU and others will argue Wednesday before Commonwealth Court in a suit they have filed claiming that the law violates the state Constititution. The state admitted that it will offer no evidence that voter fraud has occurred in Pennsylvania, and said it had no investigations or prosecutions related to fraud.
And Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into the law; it wants to see proof of the state's claims of how many people have the ID they'll need to vote in November. The Department of Justice recently blocked a voter-ID law in South Carolina.