Confusion over Pennsylvania’s new voter-identification law is likely to cause chaos at many polling places in Philadelphia, including longer-than-usual lines and shorter tempers as more voters are forced to choose between casting a provisional ballot and not being able to vote, a city elections official said Wednesday. “I’m anticipating a mess on Election Day,” deputy city commissioner Jorge Santana testified at a Commonwealth Court hearing on whether the law should take effect as scheduled on Nov. 6. “I anticipate a lot of problems, a lot of tension, a lot of stress on the voters.” Wednesday marked the sixth and final day of testimony in the hearing on a lawsuit seeking to block the law as a first step toward a broader challenge on its constitutionality. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday. Judge Robert Simpson has said he hopes to issue a ruling by the week of Aug. 13.
The case has ignited a fierce debate over voting rights in this swing state that could play a potentially crucial role in the presidential race. Republicans in the Legislature passed the bill earlier this year without a single Democratic vote. Democrats charge that the law is a political scheme to suppress voting by minorities, senior citizens and other groups in an effort to give GOP nominee-apparent Mitt Romney an edge over Democratic incumbent Barack Obama, who carried the state in 2008. The new requirement that all voters produce a valid photo ID requirement is a sharp departure from current law, which requires identification only for people voting in a polling place for the first time and allows non-photo documents such as a utility bill.