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August 29, 2014, 2:03 am

High stakes involved in voter ID law fight

Critics of the state’s new Voter ID law are getting louder and urging Philadelphians to get ready for the Nov. 6 presidential election now.

“This law … disenfranchises Philadelphians — so the way to defeat this law is to make sure that Philadelphia gets out and votes in every election,” said City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who is part of a growing effort to raise awareness about the law. “One of the reasons we have this law is that we’ve gotten out of the habit of voting. The more we vote, the more the governor, whoever the governor is, is going to respect us.”

Singer, who is part of a growing effort to raise awareness on the issue, is making two television appearances — one this week and one next week — to discuss the law, which new data shows hits Philadelphia harder than it does the rest of the state.

Data released last week estimated that 18 percent of Philadelphians — or 186,830 of the city’s registered voters — do not have a photo ID that meets the state’s requirement to cast a ballot in November.

The numbers, part of a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of State, found that about 758,000 voters across the state lacked the necessary ID. That translated to 9.2 percent of all registered voters.

“I can only speculate that it’s higher in Philadelphia because we have a decent public transportation system,” Singer said. “You don’t need a driver’s license to exist.”

The new figures reignited the debate that preceded the passage of the law in March.

With the law in place, Singer is urging voters to think ahead and get their IDs as soon as possible, noting that while November seems far away, it’s right around the corner.

The process to get the required documents varies but can be lengthy, she said. Getting the state ID, provided by PennDOT, requires a birth certificate — one directly from the state that includes a raised seal. The cost for that can vary depending on state of birth as can the length of time required to receive it. Some reports have estimated that it can take 13 weeks to receive a birth certificate. The election is 15 weeks away.

While Singer urged Philadelphians to make sure they have the ID needed to vote, others are urging Gov. Tom Corbett to delay implementation for a year.

“Every voter in Pennsylvania needs to know what the new law requires,” said Barry Kauffman, Executive Director of Common Cause PA, who is part of a coalition of advocates calling for a delay. “Four months until the presidential election in November is a very short time frame to reach what we now know are hundreds of thousands of voters who will actually need to get photo identification in order to vote.”

The law has been controversial from its inception, with critics arguing that it disenfranchises minority, older and younger voters. Singer said the specific demographics of who has proper identification would probably be released by the state with week.

Supporters said the law was needed to stop voter fraud.

Critics however, were given ammunition in their argument when state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said the law will “allow” Mitt Romney to win the state in November, according to a report.

“(The) Voter ID … is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” Turzai told a group of Republicans in late June.

Two law suits have been launched to block it — the first is scheduled to go to court on July 25.

 

Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .