Phila. Senators Rebuke Court’s Decision on Controversial Voter ID Law
HARRISBURG, Aug. 15, 2012 — The Senate Democratic Philadelphia delegation today rebuked Commonwealth Court’s refusal to grant an injunction that would have halted the state’s controversial voter ID law from being implemented.
“I am extremely disappointed in the court’s decision. Pennsylvania does not have a voter fraud issue, but we now have a voter suppression issue,” said state Sen. Shirley Kitchen. “It’s now more important than ever to make sure that every voter is eligible to vote in November’s election, and Philadelphia senators will be making every effort to help all citizens who need proper ID.”
During the court hearing, organizations and individuals objected to the law, which requires all registered voters to present a valid form of photo ID in order to cast a ballot, starting with this November’s General Election.
“It chills me that a judge would say it’s not his responsibility to empathetic to the burdens that would now be placed on a significant swath of voters in Pennsylvania — more than 700,000 at last count,” said state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, the Democratic whip. “This is about more than an inconvenience. It’s about ensuring that the law is inclusive. That’s what the past 100 years or so of voting rights laws have sought to establish. That’s not what this law does.”
“Hundreds of thousands of voters could be effectively shut out of the election process under the guise of voter fraud. Without any evidence of this so-called fraud, this law is nothing more than another way to tip the odds in favor of the Republican presidential candidate this November,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-7th dist.). “This is an extremely partisan law that Pennsylvania is ill prepared to implement. It is my plan to continue to fight this voter suppression law and assist the public with obtaining the necessary documentation to vote in November.”
Matt Barreto, an associate professor at the University of Washington, testified at the commonwealth court hearing that more than 1 million voters would be negatively impacted by the voter ID law, including more than 273,000, or 17.8 percent of, eligible Philadelphia voters.
“Today’s deplorable ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Simpson will keep hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians from exercising their right to vote. In fact, according to a recent AFL-CIO study, the highest number of registered seniors who do not have an approved photo ID live my district,” said state Senator Larry Farnese (D-1st dist.). “This is not over yet, but everyone — Republican and Democrat — needs to act now so they can get their ID in order to cast their vote in November.”
“We should not make it harder for people to exercise their right to vote. The passage of the voter ID measure into law and subsequent court ruling are extremely disappointing because this law was crafted for partisan advantage, rather than voter protection,” said state Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th dist.). “When laws are crafted for partisan political gain, we lose the public’s trust.”
“This is a very sad day for the registered voters in my district whose votes are at risk because they lack the required identification. The courts are supposed to be non-partisan and protect the rights of citizens, yet this was a partisan decision made without proof of voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” said state Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-4th dist.). “I want to encourage my constituents not to get discouraged by this ruling. Instead, I want everyone to make sure that they take action as soon as possible to ensure that they are not disenfranchised at the polls. Through my Voter Identification Education Initiative, my staff and I have been working tirelessly within our community to help residents obtain and complete the forms they need to get an ID. My offices remain open for those who need assistance with this process.”
Earlier this year, Senate Democrats voted against the controversial legislation. The lawmakers argued that the legislation was a partisan move to disenfranchise select populations of voters, namely the elderly, the poor, minorities and individuals living in urban communities.
Additionally, Democrats argued that the nearly non-existence of voter impersonation in Pennsylvania did not justify the need to implement a law, which will cost the state millions of dollars to produce free voter IDs to those who need it, at a time when the state budget enacts harsh cuts to much-needed programs and services.
Also, Senate Democrats last week filed an “amicus” brief supporting the efforts of the plaintiffs in their efforts to prove that the voter ID law would disenfranchise a significant number of registered voters.
In their efforts to continue to inform the public about the new voter ID law and its changes, Sens. Kitchen and LeAnna Washington, will host a news conference on Friday, Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. at 6418 Rising Sun Ave. in Philadelphia. They will be joined by other elected officials, the AARP, Philadelphia Voter Registration Office, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, NAACP, Dr. Lucille W. Ijoy, and more.
“It’s imperative that the public is aware of the new law and that no voter is turned away on Election Day,” Kitchen said.