At a press conference on Friday morning, Democratic State Senators LeAnna Washington and Shirley Kitchen voiced their deep concerns for registered voters who may not be able to cast a ballot in November because of Pennsylvania’s new Voter I.D. law.
Washington said her staff has managed to compile a list of hundreds of names of registered voters in her district who don’t have a state issued identification card – a requirement since Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed off on the controversial GOP supported law earlier this year. She said the law will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.
“Everywhere I go in the 4th District my constituents ask what are we going to do about the Voter ID law?” she said. “There are at least 40,000 registered voters in my district who won’t be able to vote in November because they don’t have the proper identification and don’t have the supportive documentation to obtain one. The impact of this is not about you or I but about our president. Many voters will be silenced by this process. The Republicans who backed this legislation said it was to stop voter fraud; but now we know that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the lowest incidents of voter fraud.”
Kitchen said the Republican backed law is nothing less than an assault on democracy itself.
“We’re working to make sure this will not affect voters but what is especially disturbing about it is that it goes after senior citizens more than any other group in the population,” Kitchen said. “Many senior citizens who live in Philadelphia weren’t born here; they were born in Georgia, or Mississippi or Alabama and can’t get a record of their birth – no record of their birth even exists in many cases, yet they’re been registered voters for years. There’s a significant number of individuals in Philadelphia who have no state issued identification card at all, and others think that a check cashing card will be enough. It won’t. This is nothing less than an assault on democracy and the state of Pennsylvania and the right to vote.”
The Voter ID law has been drawing harsher and harsher criticism since Corbett signed off on the measure.
Touted as a simple response to block voter fraud, Democratic law maker’s right from the start said it was, in truth, a means to defraud voters.
An estimated 10 percent of the state’s population doesn’t have a required state issued identification card. Now the state has a program to issue free identification cards but many registered voters don’t have supportive documents such as a birth certificate – which can take up to almost six months to obtain. Other forms of identification such as student ID’s, U.S. passports or military ID’s are just as valid but when it comes to the senior population, they will need a PennDot non-driver’s license card to cast a ballot.
Washington said that in June, the Pennsylvania Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made a comment during a partisan event that outed the real purpose behind the legislation in the mind of the public and partisan opposition. "Voter ID -- which is going to allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done," Turzai said.
To fight the new law, the NAACP and the ACLU filed a lawsuit in May challenging its constitutionality. The lawsuit alleges that the state's voter photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution by depriving citizens of the right to vote. The plaintiffs are asking the Commonwealth Court to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of the law before November's election. Hearings begin on Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 10 a.m., Courtroom 3002, Pennsylvania Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Ave., Harrisburg before Judge Robert Simpson.
“We’ve been out educating the community on this new law, we’re not just sitting on this,” said Ben Geffen, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. “Several of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are elderly voters who were born under ‘Jim Crow’ in the old South. They were born at a time when African-Americans were especially likely to be born to a midwife, not in a hospital. There is no record of their birth.”