Editorial: Voter ID law infringes upon peoples’ rights

By Staff Editorial

While many students don’t exercise their right to vote out of sheer apathy, most of us…While many students don’t exercise their right to vote out of sheer apathy, most of us recognize the importance of being able to cast a ballot on Election Day. Pennsylvania might soon make it harder to exercise that right — it’s in line to become the 10th state to require voters to show valid photo ID at polling stations before casting ballots in order to prevent voting fraud.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear arguments from the attorneys for the commonwealth and top state officials this Thursday concerning the state’s controversial law. The American Civil Liberties Union claims that 759,000 Pennsylvanians do not have a valid ID, which they will need to be able to vote.

We believe that the likelihood of in-person voter fraud in a presidential election is slim enough that requiring photo ID is unnecessary. According to News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, there have been only 10 reported cases of in-person voter fraud since 2000. Considering that there are 146 million voters, that means only one out of every 15 million voters commits in-person fraud. Because the likelihood of this type of fraud occurring is so low, this law will really not improve the fairness of voting in the U.S.

Instead, it will prevent members of demographics such as minorities, the poor and the elderly — groups who compose most of the nation’s 11 percent of citizens without photo IDs, according to the Brennan Center for Justice — from being able to vote. Many elderly people do not have driver’s licenses and no longer have the proper documentation to attain one. We think it’s unrealistic to expect people born during the Great Depression to still have their birth certificate, and Social Security cards can easily go missing.

The process of applying for government identification is complex — and it’s not free. Those without Social Security cards have to go to a Social Security office to apply for a new card before making two trips to the Department of Transportation. The Commonwealth Court should consider that non-drivers will also have to find transportation to PennDOT to obtain a photo ID.

In addition to these problems, the timing of the legislation wouldn’t leave much opportunity to complete the process of going to different government organizations, waiting in lines and filling out forms: Voting day is in less than two months. We think that enacting this new law so close to election time is unfair to those who have to go through the lengthy process of applying for official forms of identification.

We believe that this law also unfairly affects the caregivers of the elderly. For many families, this law could mean spending long, tiring days waiting at government agencies to get copies of official documentation. And for those who have little mobility or family support, this law could mean deciding not to go through the hassle of voting at all.

And the negative repercussions would not stop there. Voter ID laws exclude homeless people, who lack an address and therefore cannot receive the necessary identification to vote, from the polls. And people who cannot afford the costs of a government-issued ID will also be indirectly disenfranchised. While these people don’t make up the majority of society, they still have the right to cast their votes, and we believe the government should not create laws that affect them unfairly.

Republican legislatures passed this law to suppress the Democratic voter turnout. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, proudly admitted that the new law would help Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney win the presidential election.

Among the Commonwealth Court’s duties is guaranteeing the American people their rights. And by disenfranchising voters — whether the effects have the ability to sway an election or not — the court fails to protect Americans’ right to vote.