A trial over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law will either uphold or block a new requirement that state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery) called “purely about partisan politics.” A ruling is expected this week. In a phone press conference on July 31, Hughes said the law “reverts us back to the days of poll taxes.” He said that if the trial allows Pennsylvania voter ID requirements to stand, “we will do our best to make sure everyone who needs one gets an ID.”
“The context of the trial is that nationally we are in the middle of the biggest national rollback of voting rights in decades,” according to Wendy Weiser, co-director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The law disproportionately affects minorities, the elderly, and poor people, according to Weiser.
Great-grandmother Viviette Applewhite is the main plaintiff in Applewhite et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al. The 93-year-old, who marched with Martin Luther King, has been voting for 50 years. Plaintiff Ana Gonzalez spoke at the press conference. She said she grew up in a household where voting was prized. She has always voted, and raised her children to follow civic issues and to always vote. “My mother taught me. She read the paper and we discussed issues,” said Gonzalez. Neither Applewhite nor Gonzalez has been able to get the kind of picture ID required to vote in the 2012 election. Like Applewhite, after trying and failing to get the right documents, Gonzalez contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania and joined the lawsuit.
Pennsylvania is the biggest swing state with a restrictive voter ID law that is not yet blocked by the courts, and the law could affect the outcome of the presidential election, according to Weiser. State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s recent statement appears to confirm Weiser’s assertion, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported. He said at a Republican State Committee meeting this month, “Voter ID … is going to allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” His spokesman, Steve Miskin, said that the law is meant to prevent fraud.