“To ask me to enforce something that violates civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do,” Colwyn’s Democratic inspector of elections, Christopher L. Broach, told the Inquirer last week. Broach was explaining his decision not to enforce the state’s controversial new law requiring voters to present one of a few forms of identification at the polls starting this November. The law could disenfranchise many voters in Colwyn, a small, 80-percent-black borough in Delaware County. (Statewide, 20 percent of voters may not have valid PennDOT-issued ID, according to data obtained by CP. In Philly, 43 percent of voters may not possess valid PennDOT ID.) It would be a simple but vexing act of civil disobedience: When voters go to the polls this November, the neighborhood people who staff polling places throughout Pennsylvania could just plain not ask voters for the identification the law requires.
The legal consequences of defying the law could, however, be tough. Though the voter-ID law does not set out any new and specific penalties, violators could be charged under catchall provisions in the state elections code, leading to fines and up to a seven-year prison term, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. District Attorney Seth Williams’ office says the DA will “look at alleged violations in the same manner as any other election-day complaints we receive.” A spokesman for Attorney General Linda L. Kelly, who could also prosecute lawbreakers, would “not speculate about hypothetical situations.” Currently, prosecutions for elections crimes are exceedingly rare.