U.S. voter ID law tested in Pennsylvania courts

A court battle over the state of Pennsylvania’s controversial voter identification law is being seen as a proxy in the battle between Republicans and Democrats. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has asked a lower court to reconsider its earlier ruling in favor of the law. Republican legislatures across the country have pushed voter ID laws — ostensibly to prevent voter fraud. Democrats argue the laws are an attempt to suppress minority voter turnout.

Democratic volunteers are canvassing Philadelphia neighborhoods with information on the state’s new voter ID law.

The Republican-sponsored law requires voters to have state-approved photo ID to vote. But more than 700,000 voters may not have one.

“We think there are going to be a lot of people surprised when they show up this year,” said Bob Previdi, who is with the non-partisan Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition.”And we are trying to alert as many people as possible that they need to have this photo voter ID.”

Critics say the law is a thinly-veiled attempt to disenfranchise minority voters who voted for President Obama in 2008.

“A lot of African-Americans don’t have ID’s,” said Charles Warner, a Philadelphia voter. “And some of our Spanish-Americans don’t have ID’s either. They don’t want him in. They don’t want him in office no more.”

Republican state officials declined our requests for interviews. They argue the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Democrat Stephanie Singer, chairwoman of the Office of City Commissioners, which oversees Philadelphia’s elections, disagrees with Warner.

“The purpose of the law is to suppress the vote of certain groups of people, and the way to win over this law is for those people to vote,” she said.

More than 30 states have considered voter ID laws since the 2008 election.

“The color barrier was broken at the White House for the first time in U.S. history, by-the-by the largest, most diverse presidential election ever,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “It should not be surprising historically that we are facing a wave of voter suppression efforts that are designed to shave off tens of thousands of votes.”

Advocates argue voter ID laws are widely supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

“Georgia and Indiana had voter ID laws on the books on the last election and what they saw was an increased turnout in the same voting blocks that the ACLU and the left thought wouldn’t come out,” said Justin Danhof, general counsel for the conservative National Center For Public Policy Research.

These opponents of the law will have to wait until Oct. 2 for the lower court to determine whether voters have enough time to obtain proper ID before the Nov. 6 election.

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