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August 28, 2014, 3:09 am

One in three Phila. voters lacks proper ID

Approximately 39 percent of active, African-American voters in Philadelphia — more than 152,000 people — lack state-required photo identification needed to cast their ballot on Nov. 6, according to Tribune calculations, based on numbers provided in a report released this week.

That figure compares to about 82,000 — or about 20 percent — active, white voters who lack proper identification.

The data appears to bolster claims that the new law violates the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“It’s about impact. Does this law have a differential racial impact [forbidden in the voting rights act] and this study is a piece of hard evidence that it does,” said City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who is in charge of overseeing Philadelphia’s elections.

Numbers provided to the Tribune showed a grand total of 868,648 active voters in the city. An active voter is defined as a person who has voted within the last four years.

About 393,000 of that total were Black.

The numbers were smaller for other ethnic groups. Among active, Latino voters, a group of about 93,000 people, about 37,000 of them faced the possibility of being denied the right to vote because they lacked ID. The majority of the remaining active voters — roughly 319,000 out of 413,000 — were white.

In total, the study, released Wednesday at a press conference at Bright Hope Baptist Church, found that about 280,000 Philadelphia voters lacked proper identification.

That is approximately one in three Philadelphia voters of all backgrounds.

The report was compiled by Tamara Manik-Perlman, an analyst at Azavea, a geospatial software firm based in the city; and Tom Boyer, a computer programmer and former journalist. The two broke down the numbers provided by the City Commissioners’ Office on a precinct-by-precinct basis.

Estimates of how many Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians could be hurt by the law vary widely, but nearly everyone agrees that minorities, the elderly, the poor and students are going to be kept from the ballot box in the largest numbers.

Projections go as high as 362,000, a figure published recently in the Huffington Post. Nearly all are higher than state authorities projected in numbers released last month. At that time, the state Department of State suggested that 186,830 registered voters — about 18 percent of the population — lacked the necessary paperwork to vote.

Manik-Perlman said she set out to map the voting precincts were voters were most likely to lack a photo ID as required by the state. Her research was based on city voting files and U.S. Census data, and an examination of data in each precinct in the city.

She stressed that her figures were projections, because voters can choose whether or not to report race on their registration forms. Many do not.

“We have a sense for each ward and division,” she said. “But, we don’t actually know for each individual what the pattern is.”

The Tribune compiled those numbers into citywide totals.

On a precinct-by-precinct basis, the highest concentration of precincts where voters lacked identification fell in neighborhoods in University City, West Philadelphia and the precincts on both sides of Broad Street in North Philadelphia, small portions of Germantown, chunks of South Philadelphia west of Broad, and slices of Southwest Philadelphia down to Essington.

“For predominantly African-American neighborhoods, it looked like there was about twice as many ID problems than there were for mostly white neighborhoods,” Boyer said. “It’s a very substantial difference.”

The law, which has been challenged in a suit filed by the NAACP and the ACLU and several other groups, is under review by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who is expected to rule on it next week. Both sides have said they’d appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the state and city chapters of the NAACP said this week that the law — touted by supporters as a way to stop voter fraud — was actually a “voter suppression” tactic.

“It was based on a lie,” he said. “Gov. [Tom] Corbett is a liar; so are his Republican cronies in the state legislature. There is no voter fraud in Pennsylvania.”


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. .