Civil rights groups are fuming in Pennsylvania, where hundreds of thousands of registered voters without photo IDs won't be able to cast ballots in November unless they get new state-recognized ID cards. The reason: A new law designed to combat voter fraud that the Republican-controlled legislature pushed through. During debate over the bill, a GOP official said that 99 percent of Pennsylvania's voters would be unaffected by this ID requirement, but new figures indicate that 9.2 percent of potential voters — some 760,000 people — lack suitable ID. Democrats argue that left-leaning voters — the poor, elderly, and minorities — will be disproportionately affected. Pennsylvania hasn't chosen the GOP candidate in a presidential election since George H.W. Bush's 1988 victory, but one Republican lawmaker recently boasted that the new voter ID law could push the state into the win column for Mitt Romney. Is this a game-changer?
This law really could turn a blue state red: The Pennsylvania GOP's power grab could "change the outcome of the 2012 election," says Steve Benen at MSNBC. "If I had to guess, I'd say a very high majority [of the affected voters] are either poor, students, minorities, or some combination therein. In other words, they're likely Democratic voters." In a tight election, barring hundreds of thousands of those voters from the polls could tip the race from President Obama to Romney... which is why Republicans approved it in the first place.
"Widespread disenfranchising in Pennsylvania"
But it should be easy for Democratic voters to comply: "Really, people, how hard is it to get an ID?" asks James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. These people have already managed to register to vote, so they ought to be able to get an identification card — something they'd need to see an R-rated movie! "Surely, it's not unreasonable to ask them to show one to ensure our elections are above-board." On the other hand, no one has proved that voter fraud is a real problem, and, until that happens, it really is wrong to disenfranchise anybody over this.
"Pennsylvania voter ID law sends Democrats scrambling"
This is undemocratic, no matter how it plays out: "Even if Pennsylvania's voter ID law were honest legislation, it would be honestly bad legislation," says Citizen's Voice. The naked truth is that the law wasn't designed to prevent fraud, but rather to suppress Democratic votes, as state Rep. Mike Turzai, the GOP's majority leader, awkwardly admitted when he said this could allow Romney to win a state he'd lose in a fair fight. Whether it works or not, this law is "an affront to democracy."
"Voter ID law undemocratic"
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