Teacher launches petition drive against voter ID law
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Steven Singer of White Oak thinks Pennsylvania's new voter ID law will prevent many people from voting in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
That's why he started an online petition that he delivered Tuesday with 2,200 signatures to Allegheny County Elections Director Mark Wolosik, asking him not to enforce the new law.
On Wednesday, the state's Commonwealth Court upheld the new law requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls. But opponents of the law are appealing that decision to the state Supreme Court.
Under the new law -- considered to be one of the strictest in the nation -- voters must present a valid Pennsylvania driver's license; a nondriver's identification card; a U.S. passport; or a military, Pennsylvania college, nursing home or government ID that contains an expiration date.
"I teach in Munhall at Steel Valley Middle School, and many of my students' parents would be affected by this," Mr. Singer said. "Many of those parents don't drive, they take buses, so they don't have a driver's license with a photo. People seem to think that everyone has a driver's license, but they don't. There are elderly parents of people who have signed the petition who say their parents won't be able to vote."
"The urban centers of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will be the most impacted by this," he said. "These are the people who rely on public transportation and don't have cars."
"This just reminds me of the poll taxes before the Civil Rights Act of 1965," he said. "They made people pay a tax before they could vote, and then when they'd present their receipt, people at the polls would say it was smudged or something."
Mr. Singer began the online petition drive two weeks ago on the website SignOn.org.
He decided to start the drive when he saw state Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, quoted as saying that the new law would "allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
"That comment, to me, made the purpose of the law crystal clear. It made it a partisan issue," he said. "And in the hearings before the Commonwealth Court, there was not one case of in-person voter fraud. We don't have enough people in this country voting. Why would we discourage people?"
Mr. Turzai made the remark during a Republican State Committee meeting in June.
Kari Gazdich of White Oak signed Mr. Singer's petition.
"Trust me, you won't want to deal with my angry and belligerent 86-year-old grandmother on Election Day if she is told she can't vote," she said. "She's never owned a driver's license. Her husband, long since deceased, and her family have always taken care of her and all of her needs so she's never needed a [Pennsylvania] ID. To deny her this right, something which she looks forward to, is simply absurd and undemocratic."
At least one election official in the state is balking at enforcing the new law.
Christopher L. Broach, Delaware County elections inspector, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he would not ask voters to show photo identification at polls in November.
"To ask me to enforce something that violates their civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do," Mr. Broach, an Internet technology consultant, told the newspaper.
He said the law, signed in March by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, was a "wholly unethical decision that violates civil rights for the sake of Mitt Romney."
Opponents of the law argue that it unfairly targets minorities and low-income residents, who largely vote for Democratic candidates, because they are less likely to have the means or the money to get the requisite paperwork for a government-issued ID.
Both sides agreed after seven days of testimony at the court hearing that they had no specific cases of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Singer knows Mr. Wolosik has said he will enforce the new state law, but he's hoping to change his mind.
Mr. Wolosik testified during the state court hearing that he expected longer lines because of the new law and that he would need more staff to enforce it and count the provisional ballots for those without ID.
Registered voters who go to the polls without a photo ID would cast a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot would be counted if the voter verifies his identity within six days.
Mr. Wolosik referred to a tally released by the Department of State showing more than 99,000 Allegheny County voters whose names could not be matched to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation identification number. He said that suggests the county may have to process far more than the approximately 2,800 provisional ballots it received in the 2008 general election.
The Department of State says it will issue a photo identification card through PennDOT for those unable to secure a valid ID any other way. Applicants need only provide two proofs of residence, such as utility bills, but they must first show they have exhausted all other avenues to obtain an ID and they would have to go in person to a PennDOT office to obtain the ID card.
Carol Kieda of Pittsburgh, who signed Mr. Singer's online petition, believes obtaining the alternative ID will be a problem for some senior citizens.
"Many older folks can't get over to the sites to get an ID," she said. "My mom never drove, so we took her to the driver's [license] place to get a photo ID. Some people do not have family who can do this."
Mr. Singer also questioned whether those who work could get to the PennDOT centers during the centers' regular hours.
Those who want to sign the petition can do so at www.signon.org/sign/just-say-no-to-pa-voter.
MoveOn.org Civic Action sponsors the website, which allows people to post grass-roots petition drives, but it does not endorse the petitions.
First Published August 16, 2012 4:53 am