On August 23, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele announced her support and the Corbett administration’s support for House Bill 934, legislation mandating all voters in Pennsylvania to show unexpired, government-issued photo identification at all elections. In the statement, Aichele claimed that just one percent of eligible voters don’t have such ID.
Wait, one percent? I sense something, a presence I have not felt since…
…Ohio debated its voter ID bill. Sure enough, as soon as the secretary made the statement, our voting rights partners in Washington told us that supporters of voter ID floated the one percent number in Ohio, too. The problem? The Ohio number included suspended licenses, people who had moved out of state, and dead people.
And lo and behold, after a little digging by a reporter, it turns out that Aichele’s number is probably not quite accurate either. A PennDOT official acknowledged that the number of license holders it gave to the department of state could have included more than just eligible voters.
Here at the ACLU of PA, we’re not surprised to find Secretary Aichele on the wrong side of a voting rights controversy. Last year the ACLU of Pennsylvania sued Chester County over inadequate polling services for Lincoln University students during the 2008 election. In the 1990s, the polling place was located at Lincoln, and when students petitioned to move it back, the county actually moved it further away from campus.
One of the defendants in that case was Chester County Commissioner Carol Aichele. Lincoln University, meanwhile, is a historically black university.
Of course, the secretary’s boss, Governor Corbett, is no stranger to voting rights controversies. In the closing days of the 2010 campaign, Corbett said of voter turnout in Philadelphia, “We want to make sure that they don’t get 50 percent. Keep that down.”
Without question, HB 934 would lead to some eligible voters losing the franchise. Those without ID are disproportionately the elderly, racial minorities, the poor, people with disabilities, former inmates, and students. There’s one way to keep that vote down: Pass a voter ID law in Pennsylvania.
With HB 934 already passed in the House, the state Senate will have to decide this fall if it is going to embrace the agenda of Representative Daryl Metcalfe or protect the franchise for all Pennsylvania citizens. The Senate can’t have it both ways.