While states like Iowa are making it easier to vote with early voting laws, Pennsylvania is making it more difficult to vote with a new voter ID law. When I was an infant, I was in Sweden with my mother who was on a Fulbright, the Swedes were voting to decide if they wanted to join the European Union, however, they had months to vote. A number of states give their citizens that same privilege. First Lady Michelle Obama is urging people in those states to “vote today”. However,
ten other states, besides Pennsylvania, have added voter ID laws in the last ten years. As many as one million people may be disenfranchised. With no evidence of voter fraud, Pennsylvania’s law is under scrutiny for being so restrictive.
Pennsylvanians have to show a valid ID with an expiration date. The problem is the poor, minorities, and the elderly, typically the Democratic constituency, often do not have this ID. Since so many of these people don’t drive, especially in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh where public transportation is easy to use, they had to get a birth certificate that could cost any where from $12 to $40. Some were comparing it to a Poll Tax. In the state, 80% of the universities IDs do not have expiration dates so they cannot be used. Some universities are scrambling to get expiration stickers so their students can vote. The motives of the law are also under question as Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed the law. Speaking to a Republican audience, State House Minority Leader, Mike Turzai, received applause when he said: “Voter ID which is going allow Gov. Romney to win the state. Done.” The PA State Supreme Court has sent the law back to the original Republican Judge Simpson, who already ruled that the law was Constitutional.
After weeks of complaints that there are long lines at the Department of Transportation, some counties have no Department of Transportation offices, others that have offices are only open one day a week. Veteran’s IDs are not even being allowed because they do not have an expiration date. Imagine serving your nation, perhaps even loosing a limb, and being told your Veteran ID was not enough.
Judge Simpson acknowledged the difficulties of individuals, and he agreed to allow new identification without the need to pay for a birth certificate. The state is calling this a Voter Identification Card. It can only be used to vote, and it expires in ten days. Yet, there is still much confusion in the state. People who have registered two, even three months ago still have not received their voter registration cards. I just registered, and I am awaiting my voter registration card. I just applied for my absentee ballot, but due to the backlog, my ballot could not get there and I could be disenfranchised.
Judge Simpson is deciding on Tuesday if the law stands as is or if he allows the law to take effect after a certain number of years. Some believe that Republicans may have hurt themselves as the Democrats may benefit by the attention that the state is getting. Some 100 nonprofit voting organizations have gone into the state to get voters registered. New York just sent a bus of volunteers this weekend. Additionally, Republicans have usually enjoyed an advantage in the absentee ballots, especially with the overseas military votes. They may see that advantage disappear with their new law and the large backlogs; the absentee ballots may not all be counted.
Anyone who will not be allowed to vote on Election Day will have the right to ask for a Provisional Ballot. He or she will have seven days to get to the Election Board with proper ID. However, in 2008, only 60% of the Provisional Ballots were casts. Many people do not make the effort to go back with their IDs. Almost fifty years after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, we still have to work to ensure that people have the right to vote.
However, is this unconstitutional? Democrats are definitely trying to spin it in the direction that this is solely done to sabotage their campaign. However, you need an ID to get on the train, the plane, receive your Oxy ID, enter Avicii concerts, and occasionally use a credit card. IDs are used so often now, that it almost seems weird that you don’t need an ID to vote. What would Susan B. Anthony and the Framers have said about needing identification to vote? Are we sabotaging their efforts? This issue could be spun in so many different ways that it’s hard to tell which party is in the right. However, the chances of voter fraud occurring are lower than getting struck by lightening. Therefore, is it really necessary to have identification? How much of a difference will this make in today’s election?