The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

July 4, 2012

Half-million voters don’t have photo ID

By Nick HIldebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends

MERCER COUNTY AREA — More than half a million Pennsylvania voters lack state-issued IDs that will allow them to vote in November, the Department of State said Tuesday.

That doesn’t mean those voters don’t have some other form of identification that meets the standards laid down in the voter ID law approved earlier this year by the legislature.

The “vast majority” of voters have valid driver’s licenses or PennDOT-issued photo IDs, according to a comparison of voter registration rolls and PennDOT identification databases, the department reported.

The state said the comparison showed 91 percent of Pennsylvania’s 8,232,928 registered voters have PennDOT ID numbers.

The number of registered voters that couldn’t be matched to the PennDOT database was 758,939 and 22 percent, or 167,566, of those voters are inactive, which means they haven’t voted in five years, the department said.

Those figures indicate there may be 591,373 active, registered voters who don’t have state-issued identification.

That number doesn’t take into account variations between the names on voter registrations and PennDOT IDs, such as middle initials, but it is far more than the 80,000 cited by Secretary of State Carol Aichele when the voter ID law was being debated earlier this year. It is closer to the dire predictions of critics who say the law will disenfranchise voters who lack ID or the means to get it.

The Department of State says it is going to be contacting all voters without a PennDOT ID by letter before the election, alerting them to the new law and what forms of ID are acceptable and explaining how to get a free ID.

It also says it will notify county elections directors of the names and addresses of voters in their counties who did not match any record in the PennDOT database.

The voter ID law was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Tom Corbett over the opposition of Democratic lawmakers.

The law’s supporters say it is intended to crack down on voter fraud by requiring voters to prove their identities at the polls, but critics say the law’s real purpose was to suppress turnout, specifically among young and poor voters who may not have driver’s licenses or other acceptable forms of ID and are reliable Democratic voters.

Controversy over the law, which is being challenged in court by civil rights groups, was revived recently when state House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai told a group of Republicans that the law “is gonna allow Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

The number of active voters that the Department of State has identified as lacking state-issued IDs is about 31,000 fewer than President Obama’s margin of victory in the state in 2008.