The trial for a state constitutional challenge against a photo voter ID law passed in Pennsylvania began this week, and already two startling issues have emerged: One, there are still hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who don’t have the necessary identification to vote over a year since civil rights groups challenged the law saying it would disenfranchise many voters; and two, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party said that the voter ID law was instrumental in cutting votes for Obama by about five percent.
Pennsylvania’s GOP Chairman Rob Gleason appeared on Pennsylvania Cable Network on Tuesday to brag about having cut Obama votes down by 5% in the last election, which he ever-so-casually attributed to Voter ID laws. This is not exactly a big surprise– last year, Mike Turzai, the PA Republican House Leader, bragged that the state’s Voter ID laws were totally going to hand Romney the election.
His comment is consistent with Gleason’s Pennsylvania GOP colleagues state Rep. Mike Turzai who said the law would help Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the bill’s sponsor, who said those who couldn’t comply with the law were “the lazy who refuse to exercise the necessary work ethic.”
Just how will Gleason’s comments play out in the current trial over whether the law comports with the state’s constitution. Last year, the civil rights groups challenging the law successfully won a preliminary injunction that stopped the voter ID mandate from going into effect for the November elections (though poll workers could still ask for ID, voters didn’t have to show it). The state lost in those hearings because they couldn’t prove, per the many judges’ instructions, that the law wouldn’t lead to even one person disenfranchised. Here, Gleason is admitting to five percent of voters disenfranchised.
Which was consistent with the testimony of former Temple University professor Bernard Siskin, who said in the current trial to determine if the law should be permanently banned that as many as 511,000 Pennsylvania voters lacked the right ID to vote. According to the report from Philly.com, Siskin’s research found that among 900,000 African-American registered voters, about 89,000, or 10 percent, lacked ID, along with 11 percent of Asian American voters, as opposed to five percent of white voters.
He also testified that almost two percent of the 5.7 million people who voted in November would have been disenfranchised if the law was in place then.
Currently, the free ID cards the state is supposed to send out to those without ID have been distributed slowly. According to Advancement Project, a civil rights law organization, and one of the lawyers challenging the law, the state has issued fewer than 17,000 of them since the law passed 16 months ago.