Many Pennsylvanians aren't aware of new voter ID law, professor testifies
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HARRISBURG -- A political scientist retained by challengers of the state voter ID law testified today that his survey of Pennsylvania residents showed the new photo identification requirement would disproportionately affect eligible voters who are poor, female, young, old and lacking in education.
Matt Barreto, an associate professor at the University of Washington, said the survey found 14.4 percent of eligible Pennsylvania voters -- and 12.6 percent of voters in the 2008 general election -- lack a valid photo ID. His survey was conducted in late June and early July, before the Department of State announced it would produce a new form of voter ID for people without identification who lack the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, needed to obtain other state-issued identification.
Opponents of the new law, including the American Civil Liberties Union and other activist groups, say it would disenfranchise eligible voters and there is no evidence the lack of an identification check has led to voter fraud. The state concedes there has been no voter fraud but contends that it could still pass a photo ID law that meets constitutional requirements.
Mr. Barreto testified that the creation of a new form of ID is unlikely to reach all people who need it. His survey found only 62.7 percent of eligible Pennsylvania voters -- and 65.8 percent of 2008 voters -- knew about the new requirement three months after it became law.
And the results indicated that the overwhelming majority -- 97.8 percent of eligible voters and 98.7 percent of 2008 voters -- believed they had a valid ID. In fact, the survey found, 13.1 percent of eligible voters and 11.8 percent of 2008 voters believed they had a valid photo ID but actually did not.
The survey found that 89 percent of male registered voters have a valid photo ID, but only 85.2 percent of female registered voters. Mr. Barreto said the disparity is due in part to the requirement that the name on the photo ID "substantially conforms" to that on the voter rolls, excluding some women who changed their name at marriage.
It also found lower rates of possession of valid IDs among eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 34 and those 75 and older than among their counterparts between the ages of 35 and 74. The rate of possession of valid ID generally rose with household income level and level of formal education.
The survey relied upon a random selection of Pennsylvania phone numbers, including cell phones, and asked respondents a host of demographic questions, as well as questions designed to show if they are eligible to vote, if they are registered and if they voted in the 2008 general election. Questions about the requirements of the voter ID law were based upon the statute and information published by the Department of State, Mr. Barreto said.
Attorneys for the state were expected to cross-examine Mr. Barreto in the afternoon.
First Published July 26, 2012 1:49 pm