Voter ID on trial in Pennsylvania

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The attempt by Pennsylvania Republicans to use voter ID to suppress Democratic voter turnout in the 2012 election was thwarted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which enjoined the new voter ID rules for the 2012 election. The case has now proceeded to trial on the merits.

The Huffington Post has a reporter, Saki Knafo, covering the trial. Voter ID Trial Opens In Pennsylvania – Huffington Post:

On the first day of a
voter
ID trial
in Pennsylvania on Monday, the liberal-leaning
plaintiffs got a boost from an improbable ally — a voter who called
former Republican presidential candidate John McCain "my man"
and noted she herself had twice been elected to a local office on the
Republican ticket.

Marian Baker was one of two witnesses who offered videotaped
testimony to start
a trial
that will determine the constitutionality of
Pennsylvania's voter ID law, a subject of controversy since it was
passed last spring by a Republican legislature and governor. The law,
blocked by the state Supreme Court until the trial reviews its
constitutionality, requires voters to present photo identification at
the polls.

A grandmother of eight who lives in Reading, Pa., Baker testified
that the law caused her to recently miss an election for the first
time since 1960. Under the new law, she said, she would have to get a
special state-approved photo ID at a drivers' license center, where
lines often stretch down the block.
(Her driver’s license recently
expired.)

"I'm never going to be able to go there and stand," she
said, alluding to medical complications that have impaired her
ability to get around.

Although critics argue that requiring a valid photo ID
disenfranchises poor people and members of minority groups — who
tend to vote Democratic and are less likely than the general
population to have identification cards — Baker, who is white, may
help the plaintiffs demonstrate that their case transcends racial and
partisan divides
.

In his opening statement, Michael A. Rubin, a lawyer representing
the plaintiffs, argued that the law inherently leaves hundreds of
thousands of Pennsylvania residents without the right to vote.

* * *

In his opening statement, Rubin gave a list of reasons why the new
ID doesn't address the concerns that the critics have been raising
for months. For one thing, the government could decide to do away
with the card at any time, Rubin argued.

For another, only 71 places throughout the state are set up to
issue the ID. For many voters, Rubin pointed out, getting to one of
those offices requires traveling to a different county.

The attorney for the state, Senior Deputy Attorney General Tim
Keating, argued that the "inconvenience" of having to
obtain a photo ID "does not represent a sufficient burden"
to justify striking it down on constitutional grounds. He noted that
Pennsylvania isn't the only state with a voter ID law, and that the
U.S. Supreme Court has condoned similar
laws in other states
.

* * *

Like many voter-ID advocates nationwide, Republicans in
Pennsylvania's government say they're concerned about fraud. But
voter fraud is rare, and even Pennsylvania's lawyers admitted last
year that they could not identify "any incidents of in-person
voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge
of in-person voter fraud elsewhere."

On day two of the trial, a statistician testified that hundreds of thousands of voters could be disenfranchised if the law is allowed to stand. Pennsylvania
Voter I
D
Law
Could Disenfranchise More Than 500,000 People: Trial Expert
:

Bernard Siskin, a statistical expert who served as a consultant
for a variety of government agencies and companies, including the
FBI, testified that about 511,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania
lack the state-issued IDs required at the polls under the new law
,
which was passed last spring but has yet to be enforced.

Siskin also said the law disproportionately affects Democrats and
members of minority groups. By his calculations, Democrats are three
times as likely as Republicans and minorities are about twice as
likely as whites to lack a valid ID
.

About 10 percent of black and Hispanic voters lack the required
identification documents, versus 5 percent of whites, he said
. Asked
whether significant racial disparities exist among those who lack the
ID, Siskin replied, “Almost beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Siskin’s testimony may prove crucial to the plaintiff’s
efforts to overturn the law on the grounds that it violates the state
constitution by disenfranchising large numbers of voters.

* * *

Michael A. Rubin, a lawyer representing the
plaintiffs, spent Tuesday morning guiding Siskin through a detailed
explanation of how he arrived at his numbers.

Siskin explained that he compared a state database of registered
voters with a database naming everyone in Pennsylvania who has a
state-issued ID. He eliminated all matching names, and then used
conservative methods to rule out other possible matches, like people
with different names but matching birthdays and Social Security
numbers.

To calculate the racial disparities among voters, he used a
software program that identifies a voter’s likely race based on
where the voter lives.

Siskin reviewed a series of rebuttals made by William Wecker, a
statistical consultant for the state who argued in
a report
that Siskin overlooked certain voters, like students and
people living in nursing homes, who may lack the state-issued ID but
could possess other forms of identification acceptable for voting.

In his testimony, Siskin systematically refuted most of Wecker’s
criticisms, but noted that even if Wecker was right, there would
still be 381,000 registered voters in the state without the ID.

“One can conclude clearly that there are hundreds of thousands
of people who do not have IDs,” he said.

Chris Matthews, who incessantly talks about Pennsylvania on his program Hardball, had Judith Browne Dianas from the Advancement Project, which is providing the lawyers in this case, and A.B. Stoddard from The Hill, who never fails to present the Beltway media villager "conventional wisdom" GOP-spin, on his program to discuss this case in this segment.

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Chris Matthews came back to the case in his "Let Me Finish" segment at the end of the program.

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