24 April 2012

Another problem with the voter ID law

Like several other states, Pennsylvania now has a voter ID law, which requires voters to show a photo ID before they will be permitted to vote. While the new Pennsylvania law doesn't take effect until the November elections, voters for the April 24 primary were asked for ID as a "dry run", although lack of an ID at the primary did not disqualify anyone from voting.

As I was showing the poll worker my driver's license to vote in the Pennsylvania primary, I asked her if many people had shown up without a valid ID. She said no. She said that there had only been a few people who had left their IDs in their cars and had to go back to get them.

But we agreed that this was no indication of how things will go in November. For the primary, the polling place was practically empty, compared to November of 2008, when I got there at 7:00 a.m. and the line was already an hour long.

Opponents of the voter ID law say that it will disenfranchise voters who don't drive and don't have an easy way to obtain a government-issued photo ID. And they point out that those people most likely to be disenfranchised also tend to vote Democratic. They also point out that cases of actual polling place fraud are extremely rare.

And this primary test run showed me another problem with the new law: It takes more time to check in at the polling place. Previously, I would just have to give my name, wait for the poll worker to find me alphabetically in the registration book, and then sign by the "X". This time, in addition to that, I had to dig my wallet out of my purse, dig my ID out of my wallet, wait for her to look it over and then write something down about it, put the license back into my wallet, and put the wallet back into my purse.

And I thought about how I waited in line for an hour to vote for Obama in '08, and how much longer that wait would have been if everyone had had to deal with the extra step to prove our identities.

I can only hope that the turnout this November is as good as it was back then, so everyone can see this extra problem caused by this unnecessary new law.

After all, you don't have to produce your ID until you've made it to the front of the line.

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