Air Force veteran testifies Pa. voter ID law could prevent him from casting ballot

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HARRISBURG -- A 63-year-old Air Force veteran testified today that Pennsylvania's new voter identification law could prevent him from voting in upcoming elections because he has been unable to get a state-issued photo ID card.

Taking the stand in Commonwealth Court in a hearing over the law's validity, Danny Rosa of West Chester said poor health and eyesight have prevented him from getting a Pennsylvania driver's license.

And when a friend gave him an hour-long ride to the PennDOT center nearest his house, the clerk refused to issue the photo ID because the name on his New York birth certificate is Daniel Guerra -- changed later to Daniel Rosa after his mother married his stepfather. Rosa is the name on his discharge papers and his Veterans Administration ID card.

"I banged on the desk real hard and stomped out" of the PennDOT office when the clerk refused to give him a photo ID, he said.

He said he is proud of his military service in the 1970s and his honorable discharge and thinks he should be allowed to vote.

Mr. Rosa testified for the plaintiffs -- the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of individual voters -- who have filed suit against the law, claiming the main intent of the Republican-backed measure is to keep people who usually vote Democratic, such as low-income people, senior citizens and minorities such as blacks and Hispanics, from voting in November.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration and the GOP-controlled Legislature approved the new law this spring but have been unable to point to any examples of people voting fraudulently, which was the purported justification for the law.

Another witness for the plaintiffs today was Joyce Block of Doylestown, whose maiden name of Altman is on her birth certificate but whose married name of Block is on her Social Security card.

She, too, was refused a photo id.

"The clerk said, 'You have two different names,'" she said in a videotaped interview. "He wouldn't issue the ID. I thought he was nuts."

David Gersch, lawyer for the ACLU, hammered away at the large numbers of people he said could lose their right to vote this year because they lack a photo ID.

As many as 759,000 registered voters don't have an ID number from PennDOT -- which they need for a photo ID -- and another 500,000 registered voters who have an expired PennDOT number, he said. Another 130,000 people whose driver's license ID numbers don't match a state voter-registration system called SURE.

"That's a lot of people," Mr. Gersch said.

Jonathan Marks, a state Bureau of Elections official, said he's sure the numbers of voters who may not be eligible to vote is far less than those given by Mr. Gersch, but he didn't provide specifics.

He said the Department of State, by late August, will have a new ID form ready for people without driver's license, but that will only be used by "several thousand" applicants.

The plaintiffs want Judge Robert Simpson to issue an order blocking the law from taking effect. The judge has said he'll rule by mid-August, but the case will almost certainly be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which will issue a final ruling.

Testimony before Judge Simpson will continue until Friday.

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