Pennsylvania: A Glimpse of Texas' Future if Voter ID Law is Implemented
While Texas awaits a panel of judges' decision as to whether a voter I.D. requirement would disenfranchise minorities, Pennsylvania provides a peek into the issues that arise after such a law is put in place.
In the lawsuit filed against the Department of Justice by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the state argues that such a law would prevent voter fraud while the DOJ claims it would disproportionately prevent minorities from voting. After last week's back-and-forth testimony from both sides, the panel of three federal judges could take weeks or months to review the case, meaning it's a mystery as to whether the law, if permitted, could be applied in time for the November election.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania passed a similar law requiring voters to prevent identification, and now the state is facing legal backlash and public relations snafus because of the decision.
Last month, a Pennsylvania Republican leader made a remark that momentarily cast doubt on the repeated assertion that the voter ID law is intended to preserve the integrity of elections by preventing fraud.
"Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done," he said, according to a report on PoliticsPA.com, as quoted in the New York Times. His spokesman did damage-control, telling the Times that his comment was meant to show that combating voter fraud was important to "level the playing field" in November.
Another recent Times article documents a few people who feel that the playing field for voters has been skewed against minorities, rather than leveled for candidates, and several are part of a lawsuit against the state to drive home their point.
Vivette Applewhite, a 93-year-old Obama supporter, had her purse snatched four years ago. The former hotel housekeeper never had a driver's license, and her social security card was stolen with the purse. Her name had changed several times as she was adopted and married twice, complicating the process of obtaining identification. Now, she may not be able to vote for the president in November's election.
Wilola Shinholster Lee, a 60-year-old born in Georgia, lost her birth certificate in a house fire. Georgia officials told her they too had lost records of her birth in a fire. Lee told the Times she came to Pennsylvania as a child with her grandmother, who is now 98, loves Obama and does not have a photo ID. Lee has a Social Security card and an employee ID from her employment with the Philadelphia Board of Education, but that's unlikely to be enough to vote in Pennsylvania in November.
The American Civil Liberities Union of Pennsylvania is spearheading the case against the new ID law, and will be putting Lee and others with similar stories on the stand at a trial that begins this month in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania was able to implement the law without the federal approval required of Texas and other Southern states with a history of discriminatory voting practices under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
With that, we're left waiting for the courts' decision as to whether Texas will follow in Pennsylvania's footsteps or not. And it's safe to assume the debate will continue for months thereafter.