Pennsylvania voter ID foes make a case in appeals court

Believe policy kept some voters from polls

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HARRISBURG -- Opponents of the Pennsylvania voter ID law kicked off their attempt to permanently block the requirement Monday by promising to show evidence that the Corbett administration knew the policy would keep some voters from the polls.

The requirement that voters show an acceptable form of photo identification was back in Commonwealth Court for the first day of a hearing in which the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and other groups will attempt to show the law itself -- and not just how the state government has implemented it -- will impermissibly restrict access to the polls.

Michael Rubin, a lawyer for the challengers, said they will present a memo in which two state agencies told Gov. Tom Corbett's staff that people such as two women whose videotaped testimony was shown Monday would be unable to get a photo ID made available by the law.

"It is the Department of State and Department of Aging telling the governor's office that if you don't change this law -- I'm going to use their term -- these people will be disenfranchised, through no fault of the elector, simply because they cannot get to PennDOT," Mr. Rubin said. "They knew the effect of the law would be people couldn't get the ID."

A spokesman for the governor's general counsel, his chief legal adviser, declined to discuss the document, but he said Mr. Corbett instructed his administration to make identification obtainable by voters.

"We'll address the evidence as it comes up," Nils Frederiksen said. "But the directives have been clear from this administration, from the governor, from the secretary of state and others. Again, anyone who's eligible to vote in Pennsylvania and who needs a photo ID in order to do that can get one and can get one free of charge."

The challengers presented the testimony of two older women who said difficulty moving about had prevented them from getting a new ID from a Department of Transportation licensing center.

Marian Baker, 71, of Reading said she missed voting for the first time during the May primaries because a poll worker told her in November that photo identification would be required in future elections. That was true as the law stood at the time; a judge last fall had extended through the November elections a roll-out period in which voters would be asked, but not required, to show photo identification. But in February, the parties in the case agreed the ID requirement would remain on hold in the May election as well.

Mina Kanter-Pripstein, 92, of Philadelphia said she can vote inside her apartment building but cannot get to and from a licensing center: If she took a bus, she would have to walk from the stop, while a cab ride would leave her having to hail one for the return.

"Things do get less important, things you thought you would never be able to do without," she said when an attorney for the state asked if voting was no longer important to her, as she had said it was. But she added: "It's one of the few things I thought I'd always do."

Mr. Frederiksen, the spokesman for the governor's general counsel, said PennDOT offices work to accommodate people with mobility problems and can make exemptions for people who have photos on file.

"We heard very compelling testimony from two very wonderful women," he said. "But the reality is, at the end of the testimony, they don't have IDs because they haven't attempted to obtain them."

mobilehome - electionspa - state

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


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