Expert rebuts Pennsylvania voter ID claims

Argues total without proper ID overstated

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HARRISBURG -- An expert hired by the state tried Thursday to cast doubt on the conclusions of another statistician that hundreds of thousands of registered voters lack a driver's license or other Department of Transportation identification that could be used under the voter ID law.

The parties seeking to permanently stop the voter ID law presented testimony last week by Bernard Siskin, a former chairman of the Temple University statistics department, who compared databases of Pennsylvania voters and holders of driver's licenses and other identification issued by PennDOT.

His method found more than 500,000 registered voters either had never obtained such an ID or held an expired ID that would not be acceptable at the November 2013 election. Allowing for error, he said, he was confident hundreds of thousands of registered voters lacked such identification.

But William Wecker, a statistician hired by the state, testified Thursday that Mr. Siskin should have attempted to account for other types of identification -- such as IDs issued by universities and nursing homes -- that are also acceptable under the law.

"They might well have other ID that could allow them to vote," he said. "There are many ways to vote that do not require PennDOT ID."

Mr. Siskin wrote in his report the challengers asked him to examine only identification listed in the PennDOT database.

Mr. Wecker also wrote that there were incidents in which Mr. Siskin counted dead voters as failed matches, a point Mr. Siskin conceded last week in court.

Attorneys for the law's challengers spent significant time Thursday suggesting Mr. Wecker was wrong to estimate the number of voters without PennDOT ID who may have other acceptable identification by drawing circles of varying radii around universities, care facilities, military bases and corrections centers.

Mr. Wecker reported, for example, that Mr. Siskin had listed as lacking PennDOT identification about 48,000 voters aged 18 to 28 who lived close to a university or college. The challengers of the law argued this was a poor estimate for the number of voters who have an alternate ID in part by showing maps of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with circles of a 1-mile radius drawn around the colleges and universities. The surrounding neighborhoods, they said, are home to many young residents not enrolled in college.

Mr. Wecker said he was not claiming that all those voters had another form of identification, but that Mr. Siskin should have considered that variable.

"They are merely examples illustrating the point I was making," he said when an attorney for the state questioned him again. "There are people here who need further investigation."

The trial is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

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Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141.


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