People For the American Way Foundation

UPDATE: Lawsuits, politics color voter ID in Pennsylvania

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed HB 934, a voter ID law whose original sponsor, Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member. Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in May, and in June, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that he, too, plans to challenge the law in court. Fitzgerald and local officials cite the legislation as being too expensive and too difficult to implement by November, among other major flaws. We’ve since written about the practical impacts and political implications– now there’s new information on both fronts.

Recent analysis suggests that HB 934 will affect even more voters than previously thought. It requires voters to have an ID issued by the state transportation department, and, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, more than 758,000 (over 9 percent of the state’s voters) do not have one. These voters live disproportionately in Democratic areas of the state. David Boyer of the Washington Times notes that In "Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 6-1, 18 percent of the city’s registered voters do not have the state photo ID."

The reason is clear why the Right Wing has been so eager to invent voter fraud and then offer gratuitous solutions such as HB 934: to disenfranchise the voters least likely to back conservative politicians. Slate’s David Weigel explains:

In 2008, Barack Obama won Pennsylvania by the biggest majority of any candidate since 1972* — 620,478 votes. So, the total number of voters lacking ID is greater than that. Most of Obama’s margin came from his landslide in Philadelphia County — 478,759 votes over John McCain. So, the total voter bloc that lacks valid ID is about 39 percent as large as the Obama-McCain margin.

Further highlighting the political interest of the Right Wing in suppressing the vote in Pennsylvania is the recent revelation that the state Department of State has granted a contract to the lobbying firm Bravo Group, run by Mitt Romney fundraiser Chris Bravacos, to develop the "voter education media campaign" for the 2012 election. Outrageously, the contract is funded by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which aims to clear roadblocks to voting for underrepresented groups.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.


112th Congress, ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, Bravo Group, Chris Bravacos, Daryl Metcalfe, David Weigel, Mitt Romney, Policy Corner, public policy, Rich Fitzgerald, Student Voting, voter ID, voter suppression, voting rights