A Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls – upheld in a court ruling on Wednesday – has sparked concerns from Democrats that the law will drive down turnout and deliver the battleground state to Republican Mitt Romney this fall. But the Keystone State is just one of nine others nationwide that have some version of voter ID requirement, and experts say the new laws are not simply attempts by Republicans to hamper Democratic turnout but rather part of a widespread effort by both parties to tweak election rules in their favor. Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at University of California Irvine and the man behind the Election Law Blog, has found in a study of election law that, since 2000, both parties have crafted election legislation aimed less at reform than securing victory. “The electoral process is open to manipulation, and technical rules can affect the election outcome, so people play the inside game,” he said. According to Hasen, the amount of election litigation has more than doubled since 2000, in part because the parties are using election laws to further their own political gains.
In an era in which elections are frequently won or lost by a margin of just thousands of votes, even the smallest changes in election process can play an outsized role in a win or a loss. In Pennsylvania, the state’s own survey found that over 750,000 Pennsylvanians lack drivers’ licenses, the most common form of ID in the state. That’s greater than the margin by which Barack Obama won the state in 2008, leading some Democrats to worry that the law could tip Pennsylvania in favor of Republican candidate Mitt Romney come November. A prominent state lawmaker, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R), said as much at a GOP event in March when he told attendees that the voter ID law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”