Of Peace and Politics

Voting Counts* (Some Restrictions May Apply)

By Christine Letts on 08/14/2012 @ 11:07 AM

Tags: Elections, Discrimination, Domestic

Christine Letts

In our e-newsletter last Wednesday, Jim Cason asked if any of you had published letters to the editor. Here’s an excerpt from one that I received, published in the Minnesota Women’s Press (available in full online):

[I have] transitional housing status … [so] my driver's license address is not valid and won't be until I can locate housing. On top of long-term unemployment because of many factors over the decades … I am now seeing my right to vote being at risk.
--Marta Grey, Minneapolis

As a Pennsylvania voter, voter ID restrictions have been on my mind recently. Pennsylvania passed a law in March requiring voters to show photo identification with an expiration date, issued by the U.S. government, Pennsylvania, or some institutions. It joined ten other states that have passed voter ID laws since 2010. I’ll be voting with an absentee ballot this year and I have a Pennsylvania driver’s license that meets Pennsylvania’s strict photo ID standards, so the new law is unlikely to restrict my right to vote. That’s not to say that it won’t affect me.

In 2010, the races for my governor and senator were both decided by fewer than 400,000 votes. In 2008, the race for president was decided by fewer than 650,000 votes. The best estimate of the number of Pennsylvania voters who don’t have the sort of ID required by the commonwealth's new law? More than one million.* With the country deeply divided in so many areas, voter ID laws could have an effect on who gets elected to the House, Senate, or even presidency – and that will affect everyone.

The voter ID laws are designed to prevent a particular type of voting fraud: someone who is not a registered voter in a particular area impersonates a registered voter and votes in their name. There’s little evidence that this sort of fraud is happening on a large (or even small) scale. There’s substantial evidence that the voter ID restrictions will create another type of electoral manipulation: registered, eligible voters could be unable to vote.

When I read Marta’s letter, I was reminded how the new voter ID laws can damage the integrity of the electoral process. I want to live in a society where valid votes are counted votes. If the new laws prevent even one registered, eligible voter from voting, that will be one too many for me.

*See page 20 of expert testimony offered in the pending court case.

Update on 8/15: A Pennsylvania judge ruled today that the voter ID law can be implemented for election day.

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