Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Blog

By Jennine Vari

2012 Fall Intern

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided to hold hearings in the lower court to review the state’s Voter ID law. The re-evaluation is being held in order to assess whether it can be implemented by Election Day without disenfranchising voters. The decision was approved by four of the six judges on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but with Election Day only 48 days away, the decision is coming down to the wire.  Judge Robert Simpson has been ordered to make a decision by October 2nd.

The legislation for stricter voter ID regulations was approved in March by a Republican-led legislature in an effort to prevent voter impersonation at the polls. However, according to a study published by News21 in August, most voter fraud occurs with absentee ballots, not in-person. Since 2000, there have been 2,068 alleged cases of voter fraud, only 10 of which were voter impersonation.

Following the approval, challengers have been arguing that the strict new regulations will make it difficult for urban, poor, minority and elderly voters to obtain an ID because they may be unable to provide the copious amounts of necessary documentation, consisting of a raised-seal birth certificate, social security card and two proofs of residence. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center investigated voters’ experiences in obtaining state-approved ID’s. They found that not only were some PennDOT employees unfamiliar with the process of obtaining a free ID, but voters were receiving misinformation and 87% of PennDOT’s driver’s license centers lacked proper signage indicating that voter ID could be obtained at the location. To complicate the matter, nine counties do not have any driver’s license centers at all. The short timeframe in which legitimate voters have to navigate this bureaucratic maze to acquire an ID is proving to be an obstacle.

Since the legislation was passed in March, 15,000 voters have secured state-approved identification. However, in August, Judge Simpson estimated that there were still 100,000-500,000 voters without proper voter identification. Under the new regulations, only current photo IDs with expiration dates will be accepted at the polling place; this includes driver’s licenses, “non-driver” cards, military and student IDs, IDs issued by local, state or the federal government, or those from a state-recognized care facility. Pennsylvania is not only a key state in November’s elections; it also has the 10th largest Arab American population in the country, with 60,870 people. If the Commonwealth Court reaches the decision next month that the state is doing enough to implement the law, there could be thousands of registered voters left out in the cold this November.