In Rebuttal / Voter ID laws are needed
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In a Perspectives piece titled " Reject Voter ID " published Jan. 11 in the Post-Gazette, Keesha Gaskins, a Minnesota attorney, wrote about the voter ID bill before the Pennsylvania General Assembly, but apparently she has never stepped foot in Pennsylvania.
Ms. Gaskins' opinion article is full of inaccurate statistics and false allegations. She claims that 11 percent of eligible voters don't have photo ID. This is simply wrong. She borrowed this statistic from the Brennan Center for Justice (her employer) which issued a misleading survey that has been largely discredited.
But even if those numbers were defensible on a national level, the statistics she uses are not Pennsylvania-specific. The office of Secretary of Commonwealth Carol Aichele reports that, according to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Motor Vehicles records, the percentage of photo ID holders in Pennsylvania is actually 99 percent.
It stands to reason that almost every Pennsylvanian has photo ID because a photo ID is necessary for so many things, including if you are a first-time voter in your election district. Also, the commonwealth requires photo ID for a variety of public services, including the receipt of unemployment compensation.
As for the 1 percent of Pennsylvanians without ID, the bill under consideration would provide voters with a free photo ID.
Ms. Gaskins tries to scare Pennsylvanians into rejecting voter ID through hype about disenfranchisement, but she has absolutely no evidence that voter ID laws keep eligible voters from the polls. Voter ID laws were implemented recently in the state of Kansas and in Albuquerque, N.M., without issue.
Ms. Gaskins fails to cite any evidence to support her case because she has none. No evidence of disenfranchisement was presented to federal judges regarding the Georgia voter ID law, and when the Indiana voter ID law was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, voter ID opponents couldn't find a single disenfranchised eligible voter.
Contrary to what Ms. Gaskins writes, the very purpose of the voter ID law is to protect the validity of legitimate votes by eligible voters. Moreover, in accordance with federal law, our commonwealth currently entitles first-time voters who do not bring valid ID with them at the time they vote the right to cast provisional ballots which then will be counted if the county election board determines that the voters were properly registered to vote in that election.
Hence, safeguards exist in this commonwealth against disenfranchisement, and the voter ID law currently before our General Assembly does not eliminate these safeguards.
Ms. Gaskins' article also had the audacity to deny the existence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. As lawyers who have represented candidates and parties in several elections in Pennsylvania, we personally have witnessed efforts to have people who are not registered or otherwise eligible to vote crowd into polling places on election night and demand that these ineligible voters be permitted to cast votes, thereby diluting the legitimate votes cast by registered electors.
Past elections were rampant with such activity. And at least two criminal prosecutions have been brought for voter impersonation by the Allegheny County district attorney. These crimes and the resulting costs of criminal prosecutions could have been easily prevented by a voter ID law.
Vote fraud is real, and every time it happens it cancels out the vote of an honest voter. Pennsylvania needs a voter identification law.
First Published January 17, 2012 12:00 am