Pa. voter ID law unfairly targets minorities

DiCicco argues that the Pennsylvania voter ID law is as discriminatory as past voting restrictions against minorities. On your mark, get set, go! First, hurtle through a narrow ball of fire. Faster. Next, spell your

emily diciccoDiCicco argues that the Pennsylvania voter ID law is as discriminatory as past voting restrictions against minorities.

On your mark, get set, go!

First, hurtle through a narrow ball of fire. Faster. Next, spell your mother’s maiden name – backwards. Next, stand on one foot, rub your stomach, and pat your head at the same time. Finished?  Now you can cast your vote.

If you think that completing an obstacle course to cast a vote is ridiculous, you’re not alone. However, throughout history, the United States has put multiple barriers in the way of casting a ballot. Previously, literacy tests, and poll taxes served as a disincentive to vote. Currently, the recently passed Pennsylvania voter identification law quiets the voting voice of the lower class, young and elderly.

In March 2012, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved House Bill 934, with a 104-88 vote. The law requires all voters to present photo identification at all voting polls. If a voter is without ID, they may cast a ballot if they present election officials with an acceptable ID within six days.

The voter ID law emphasizes how history repeats itself. This nation has a long history of voting deterrents. During the late 1800s, Southern states implemented poll taxes and literacy taxes to restrict the votes of African-Americans.

The voter ID law will cause the same restrictions. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, approximately 12 percent of the country’s eligible voters may not have a government-issued photo ID, with an even higher percentage for students, seniors and minorities.

Because the law states that IDs must have an expiration date, many college students’ ID cards are unacceptable. Under this law, a Temple Owl Card is unacceptable.

Pennsylvania college students aren’t the only ones in this situation. Similar issues are occurring across the U.S. After Texas state legislators cut student IDs from the list of acceptable voter identifications last May, some college students were left without proper identification.

Not only are students hurt by this legislation, but the elderly are also targeted. According to political science professor Carol Jenkins, these are the most obviously targeted group.

“Many no longer drive, and their lack of mobility restricts them for traveling to state offices, standing in line, filling out the paperwork et cetera to get the ID,” Jenkins said. “The African-American elderly will be particularly impacted, since many migrated from the South and cannot produce a birth certificate.  Older people vote in high numbers, so this bill will suppress the voter turnout.”

Supporters of the bill, mostly republicans, have claimed that it will solve “voter fraud.”  However, there is essentially no fraud to solve. According to 2006 Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud happens approximately 0.0009 percent of the time. Additionally, the study found “no documented trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible”.

The Brennan Center for Justice also addressed whether such photo ID policies deter voter fraud, “The only misconduct that photo ID addresses is the kind of voter fraud that happens as infrequently as death by lightning.”

In reality, the “problem” that the voter ID law is solving is the democratic vote.

Currently, republicans have initiated voting ID bills in 32 states. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that the states with new voting laws make up 185 electoral votes or two-thirds of the necessary total to win the presidency. Within the Brennan Center for Justice’s Policy Brief, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, Lawrence Norden, labeled the laws as “a state-based assault on voting.”

Across the country, democrats, civil liberties groups, labor unions, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Advancement for the Advancement of Colored People are challenging these bills.

Unfortunately, until these groups meet success, ID checks at ballots will take place during upcoming elections. Hopefully, these groups will manage to secure proper identification so that we don’t lose their voice as we did in past generations.

Emily DiCicco can be reached at


  1. If producing an ID is unfairly targets minorities we should abolish its use to purchase a gun as well.

  2. Frankly I’m amazed that we still expect citizens (or whomever) to actually TRAVEL to polling locations. I bet that some people may actually even need transportation. Maybe they even have to walk somewhere.

    And then there is the effort to actually have to READ the ballot. What if older citizens (or whomever) can’t read the small print on the ballot? We can’t possibly expect them to bring reading glasses! It’s just one unreasonable hurdle after another.

    I’ve even experienced the virtually unbearable need to wait in line to cast a vote! Citizens (or whomever) may not have the time to wait in a line. What if they need to care for small children or the elderly? Who will care for their dependents when they are going through their voting ordeal?

    If citizens (or whomever) have to leave their homes they may need shoes and maybe even a coat! Aren’t elections sometimes held when it’s cold outside? I mean C’mon. Can we just schedule all elections for comfortable days? Wait, what if it rains? My god.

    There was a time in America when the right to vote was considered sacred. In this country people have risked their lives to attain the right to vote. In other countries men and/or women dream of having the right to participate in free and open elections.

    I guess we have reached a point where we need to accept that voting just isn’t as important as buying a six-pack, for which we are willing to provide identification.

    I guess only really special people, like people to go to college, are smart enough to remember to carry a piece of plastic with them when they know they will need to establish their identity. We will leave it to you to do the intellectual back-flips to rationalize why you need an ID to enter a dormitory, or to borrow a book from the library, or to pick up a prescription, but we shouldn’t place such an unfair burden on a citizen (or whomever) who wants to exercise their right to vote.

  3. Quit race mongering. This law does not target anyone except people who vote fraudulently. Voter fraud is a real problem and this bill is designed to prevent that and add legitimacy to our elections which is often cited as a reason by certain people to not bother voting.

    You imply that this seems unfair or even unconstitutional though this is false since a similar case was heard in 2008 in the Supreme Court. The court ruled 6-3 in Crawford v. Marian County Board of Elections that the requiring of IDs to vote is constitutional. Justice John Paul Stevens stated in his leading opinion that this is in no way an unnecessary burden on voters.

    Arguing to challenge this bill is a waste of time and, more importantly, money.

  4. Come on are we seriously debating this Law which was clearly meant to do exactly what they said they were trying to prevent. Voter Fraud is a manipulation of the voting system usually a somewhat if not fully organized attempt, requiring Voter I.D. in an election year, where the Republican nominee is somewhat weak, and where many people who vote only in elections years especially, vote a straight party ticket, is a way of: a) saving your own jobs, b) attempting to limit the scope of damage c)manipulation of the system in an organized manner over 14 States, all coincidentally, having the same Party in power? d) All of the Above. You can not seriously pretend you don’t know what they are up too. Oh – one more thing, I vote in EVERY election, I take my responsibility seriously, I am neither Lazy, nor particularly liberal, but, I know it took 20 weeks to get my birth certificate from the State, and now I need to get a marriage license from the County because even though I have a legal I.D, and Legal Federal and State recognized Social Security in my married name, Have paid taxes State and Federal in my married name, I need to prove my last name by the only document that will be accepted – Cost $45.00.

    By the way, “buying a six pack” in not a right of every adult american citizen, however, voting is, there are major 14 amendment issues, which is what this article discusses. Taking cheap shots at the needs of the elderly and the poor shows ignorance which is exactly what these manipulators count on.

    Please stop pretending and touting a bill built on more fraudulent intent then they could prove in the History of my home State.

  5. Kathy, I agree that Republicans have introduced these laws in an attempt to affect the outcome of elections, and I wish they hadn’t – at least until after the presidential election.

    If Democratic support is limited to legitimate citizens (who can only vote once) I think you are looking at a significant shift in power for most coastal states and large urban areas.

    No doubt Democrats will claim that the sudden drop in democratic voters is due to some huge number of disenfranchised citizens. They may even find one or two. But they will use it as an excuse to call into question the results of the upcoming presidential election – especially if it’s a close one.

    The oft cited “Brennan Center for Justice” may turn out to be one of George Soros’ best investments. They have gone on offense by talking about how small a problem voter fraud is. Excuse me, but by definition, isn’t the incidence of voter fraud calculated based on the number of people caught? That is the whole point! You can’t identify fraudulent attempts to vote unless you require identification! Otherwise you would somehow have to magically know how many people committed voter fraud and DIDN’T get caught!

    Professor Jenkins employs the same sort of circular logic. Somehow the elderly are “the most obviously targeted group”. Then she tells us that this group will be hindered by the need to travel, wait in line, and fill out paperwork in order to get an ID. Then she tells us that “older people vote in high numbers”, a process which includes the need to travel, wait in line, and fill out paperwork. — And these people can keep a straight face!!!

    Oh, and about the 20 weeks to get your birth certificate from the State – just wait until health care is administered with the same efficiency.

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