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Letter: Voter ID Arguments Aim at Different Targets

GOP arguments for the PA Voter ID Law versus Democratic arguments against the law is a flawed comparison

While it is critical to consider both sides of any issue, pitting GOP arguments for the PA Voter ID Law versus Democratic arguments against the law is a flawed comparison. We are simply not debating 2 sides of the same issue. The Republican argument defends the general concept of requiring a form of ID to vote, whereas the Democratic objection focuses on the specifics of implementation of the law. (That is perhaps why common ground on this topic has been elusive.)

GOP defenders of the law love to tick off a list of activities for which they claim a photo ID is already required in their daily lives—using a credit card, buying certain products in a grocery store, doing certain business at the bank, and so on. Many of these are not relevant to the argument simply because they represent privileges that a merchant is offering to its customers (renting a movie is one that I’ve heard often), not a fundamental American right such as voting.

One common argument—that photo ID is needed for a visit to the doctor—simply does not work for this argument. Think about it: Many of the voters in our suburban North Penn area who need assistance to comply with the voter ID law are elderly. Are we to believe that these senior citizens are not seeing any doctors because their driver’s licenses are expired by more than a year? I don’t think so. (Many of us may have been asked for ID at the doctor, showed our valid driver’s licenses, and all was well, so we had no reason to question what would have happened if we had not had the ID. Obviously, everyday life already involves alternative ways to prove identity.)

The GOP’s companion argument, that a majority of citizens are in favor of voter ID, is public reaction to—again—the general idea of voter ID, not to the specific way it is being implemented in the state. (And most citizens simply are not aware of what many elderly or disabled people are going through to regain a cherished right that they have enjoyed all their lives.)

Our Democratic objection to the voter ID law highlights the partisanship, haste, and lack of care that have gone into its passage and implementation. There are a lot of devils in those details.

It must be stated upfront that the law’s partisan nature is evidenced by the now-viral quote by Republican state representative Mike Turzai: that the law will enable Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania—a GOP goal “done.”  But even if that cat had not been let out of the big Republican bag of tricks, there is plenty more to criticize about this law.

The timing is suspect. All across the country, voter-suppression laws were hastily passed in Republican-led states, just in time for the 2012 Presidential election on November 6. And this occurred without any evidence of an increase in voter fraud, which remains very rare. Why was this effort so urgent all of a sudden?  Even the Governor was unable to tick off even a few of the documents that constitute acceptable voter ID according to his own law.

One by-product of this hastily passed law is ill-prepared workers at PennDOT centers who attempt to charge elderly folks $13.50 for a free service and who jump at any opportunity to reject documentation rather than examine it to see if it meets the criteria of the law. Unclear guidelines and little-publicized rules are another byproduct. Did you know that a disabled voter should not use his or her driver’s license number on the absentee ballot application form if the license is expired by more than a year as of Election Day? (instead, the last 4 digits of the Social Security number should be used in such a case).

I confirmed this detail via telephone correspondence with both the Department of State (1-877-VotesPA; www.VotesPA.com) and Montgomery County Voter Services (610-278-3275; www.montcopa.org/voterservices); however, this limitation is not evident on the form itself, in the attached instructions, or on the corresponding websites.

Yesterday I was asked to assist an elderly voter (a stroke victim) who was born in Pennsylvania, never had a driver’s license because of her disability, does not have a birth certificate, has a Social Security number printed on a Medicare card but does not have her Social Security card, and is not the person who pays her bills in her household and therefore does not have the usual utility bills to use as her proofs of residence. For this one single voter, I spent several hours on the phone with her, the Department of State, another party to whom the Department of State transferred me but could not help and suggested I call the Department of State… you get the picture. Once we are able to establish definitively which documents will work in her unique case, I plan to take her to the Dublin PennDOT center (where the lines are reputed to be shorter and the workers more knowledgeable and cooperative than at Norristown). The Pennsylvania Department of State was not sure(!), but she may need to arrange a second trip later to pick up her ID card.

For every single voter who has reached out to us for help in obtaining their voter ID, how many more are there who don’t know whom to turn to or don’t yet realize that they lack what they need to vote in the Presidential election?

Another worry of mine is for the hundreds (thousands?) of married women whose maiden names appear on their voter registration but whose married names appear on their driver’s licenses. This discrepancy has never been an issue before, so they may not realize that it will present a problem at the polls this November 6.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the appeal on September 13, should strike down this poorly-thought-out law for the all-important election this fall. We can’t let Pennsylvania in 2012 become another Florida 2000. After November 6, any discussion or legislation on this issue should take into account both the general idea and the complex specifics of a major change affecting one of America’s most cherished rights.

Liz Troy
Secretary of the Lansdale Democratic Committee and
North Penn Democratic Committee

Contributions by Jack Hansen, Chairman of the Lansdale Democratic Committee and Lansdale Borough Councilman

Submit letters to the editor at lansdale@patch.com

Steven Long September 13, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Liz - voting is NOT a not fundamental American right ...it is INDEED a privilege (FELONS cannot vote). Please get your facts in order!
Steven Long September 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Elderly: Did you know, LEGAL residents can obtain a PHOTO ID card from any PA Drivers License Center? I'm guessing you are not smart enough to understand WHY photo ID is required at the Doctor's office. FRAUD! Far too often, "Jack" visits a Doctor ... professes to be "Jim." This is an undue burden on the medical system, and is INSURANCE FRAUD! Just as you would not want me to access your Social Security benefits, I would not want someone to access my medical benefits. Identity theft is not uncommon ... so I am surprised you are not sure why ID is requested, and / or that you are not sure what would happen if you did not have ID. What happens when you try to cash a check at a bank without ID? YOU DO NOT GET THE CASH! Perhaps, if you understood why precautions are put in place, perhaps, if you understood what safeguards are built into place ... you would understand why steps are necessary to prevent RAMPANT theft and fraud. Oh, by the way ... the elderly is NOT restricted to Democrats ... the elderly are also Republican ... it is not a plot to harm Democrats, or the elderly.
Steven Long September 13, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Uh, Liz ... Voter ID mandate is not voter-suppression. Please stop trying to scare people. Why do you suggest there must be an INCREASE in voter fraud, to prevent voter fraud? Clearly, when Philadelphia Ward "x" or "y" has 107% voter turnout, there IS voter fraud. I'm guessing you are okay with voter fraud, so long as it benefits Democrats. Hey, here's a novel idea ... why not do what is possible to eradicate voter fraud in general ... not just Democratic voter fraud (that's what Photo ID does)? Really? You never thought of that?
Steven Long September 13, 2012 at 03:03 PM
"Joe" CLAIMS to be born in the United States. He does not have a drivers license, nor does he have a US birth certificate. "Joe" found, or stole a Social Security card (which does not have a photo, and is NOT to be used as identification). "Joe" lives in New Jersey, but has voted in Philadelphia, Bucks County and Montgomery County under false pretenses for many years. Currently, "Joe" will not be able to commit voter fraud. With regard to someone without a birth certificate ... my gosh ... I always thought a duplicate birth certificate was able to be obtained. Do you realize it is easy to get a duplicate birth certificate ... so long as you can prove you are the person referenced on the birth certificate? If ANYONE could obtain a copy of someone else's birth certificate, "Joe" could take over MY identity. Again ... do you understand identity theft? Apparently not!
C. Smith September 13, 2012 at 03:11 PM
@Steven: One point of clarification. The issue of "right" vs. "privilege" is murky at best. The Constitution, in Amendments 15, 19, 24 and 26 reference the "The _right_ of citizens of the United States to vote..." shall not be abridged for various reasons. Color, race, sex, age, etc. So it is a right, if you have a just claim. By law, felons do not have a just claim. But I agree that is also a privilege AND a responsibility. In general, like you, I agree with the ID requirement. The main problem, perhaps poorly articulated here, is that this law as it stands was hastily instituted by the GOP, not to deal with voter fraud, but to try and influence the outcome of the upcoming elections. Plain and simple. As I said, I have no problem with the law. But implement it rationally, fairly, and with the proper protections to ensure that everyone has the proper information, ability and time to comply.
Steven Long September 13, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Maiden Names? REALLY? Are you aware, a Voter Registration card is NOT to be used for IDENTIFICATION! I don't believe I need to go through this again, but anyone can steal documentation, and decedents do not shred their utility bills or voter registration cards when they pass away. On the other hand, if "Sally Smith" married, and is now known as "Sally Jones" ... SALLY JONES is on the voter rolls. If you are familiar with the system in place for many years, the voter's name is records in the Voter Roles, ans SIGNS the rolls when they show up to vote. If "Sally Smith" OR "Sally Jones" has not voted for 10 years, 12 years (etc) ... she has already fallen off the voter rolls. If "Sally Smith" married ... she has a marriage license. If she does not have a marriage license ... she cannot prove she is "Sally Jones." Is this hard to conceptualize? This is the SAME process used to get a PASSPORT. Again, if you cannot prove you are who you are ... who is to say you are you you claim to be? My father died several years ago, but someone continues to vote in his name. Apparently, you are okay with that ... it is voter fraud, and is illegal! Another worry of mine is for the hundreds (thousands?) of married women whose maiden names appear on their voter registration but whose married names appear on their driver’s licenses. This discrepancy has never been an issue before, so they may not realize that it will present a problem at the polls this November 6.
Steven Long September 13, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Suggesting the legislature to strike down a law which you claim to be poorly thought out is senseless. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. The very idea you do not understand how people scam the system is either woefully apparent, or a ruse to foster voter fraud. I am surprised your owns thoughts are implied to be that of every single Democrat. I am also very surprised a sitting Councilman would utilize his title, in an attempt to imply municipal support or involvement. Lansdale Council is one of the most laudable and deplorable known throughout the region. Lansdale Counsil cannot get through a role call, without dispersion. So now, you would have the North Penn area believe a law is flawed, merely because you are close-minded, or refuse to recognize voter fraud is rampant?
Pat Shane September 13, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Watch the video and sign the petition to end Voter Suppression. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9TjVsQa57c
Cheri September 14, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Here's the thing...the GOP admits the Voter ID laws are a strategy to help Romney win the election. The state of Pennsylania, for one, does not have the capacity to get that many people a proper photo ID in this short of a time before the election. And so what's the big rush to implement these laws?? No one can site any voter fraud in any of the states. So, whatEVER could the rush be? Partisan motivation. Nothing more. THAT is the big problem with the Voter Laws. (Other than the small detail that they are unconstitutional...but that's beside the point.)
qpon d September 15, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Steven is definitely drinking the RepubliCon punch.

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