“I can’t imagine not having ID,” is what Governor Corbett said last summer while the first voter ID trial was ongoing. On multiple other occasions, in what has become a common refrain for supporters of photo ID requirements, he highlighted various activities that may require a person to have a photo ID. “To me, the vast majority of people have some form of photo ID. You can’t get into public buildings today without a photo ID. Credit cards now are requiring a photo ID.” In spite of the multiple factual problems with that statement, Corbett nevertheless claimed that the law “is not a barrier to vote. You have to have a photo id to go just about anywhere today.”
In the past year we have heard this argument over and over again. You need an ID to cash a check, to board a plane, to travel out of the country, the buy alcohol, to visit the doctor, and so on.
These arguments succeed only in demonstrating that these politicians are completely out of touch with the realities of day to day life for many Pennsylvanians. What Corbett and his cronies fail to realize is that many of the activities that they consider routine, are luxuries that are beyond the reach of far too many in this Commonwealth.
There are a large number of hard-working people in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, for whom air travel is out of reach, and who cannot afford to take time off of work to travel or go on vacation. There are sadly hundreds of thousands in Pennsylvania who have no access to go to the doctor, or to basic medical care. Many in Pennsylvania have no credit cards, or bank accounts, and do not drive a car.
The supporters of photo ID requirements seem to believe that their own life experiences, including air travel and vacations, regular medical care and car ownership, are shared by all in the State, including the working poor, the elderly, and students. It is probably long overdue for some of our elected officials to become more familiar with the day to day struggles of their constituents.
The controversy over voter ID was renewed this week with the start of the trial that will decide the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law. If it is upheld, Pennsylvania voters will for the first time be required to show valid photo ID at the polls in order to vote. Even some Pennsylvanians who have regularly voted for years at the same polling place could lose their most basic fundamental rights as citizens if they are unable to obtain the proper photo identification.
As we highlighted last week, even with serious efforts on behalf of the State and voting rights advocates to get proper identification into the hands of all voters, a year later more than 650,000 registered voters still lack approved photo IDs issued by the State. There are barriers to obtaining ID that too many of our elected officials fail to recognize.
For example, following the injunction of the law by the Commonwealth Court, Representative Metcalfe called the decision one that would favor “the lazy who refuse to exercise the necessary work ethic to meet the commonsense requirements to obtain an acceptable photo ID.”
A single mother with two jobs may be unable to afford to take a day off of work to travel to a licensing center to apply for an ID. Is this Metcalfe’s definition of the lack of a “work ethic?”
Some elderly residents will be physically unable to stand in long lines at a Driver’s License Center, even if they can find someone to drive them there. Is this Metcalfe’s idea of “lazy?”
A struggling college student living and working on campus may be unable to reconcile their class schedule with a visit to a faraway photo ID facility, many of which are only open one day per week. Is this Metcalfe’s idea of a lack of “common sense?”
Proof of residence to obtain a state-issued ID can be very difficult as well, requiring two forms of proof such as utility bills or a lease in the individual’s name. For residents who rent an apartment that has all utilities included, or who live with roommates and have no utilities in their name, this can be an impossible hurdle.
Even if these logistical difficulties in obtaining an ID for many Pennsylvanians were overcome, the costs associated with getting that ID, which may include costs for obtaining a birth certificate, travel costs, lost hours at work, etc., amount in essence to a modern day poll tax, where the financial barrier will be enough to discourage some legitimate voters from obtaining the ID that will be required.
These aren’t situations specific to one person; these are the lives of many Pennsylvanians who will be disenfranchised if the voter ID law is allowed to be implemented. Various studies have estimated this number to be anywhere between 650,000 to 1.6 million currently registered voters.
Continue to stand up in opposition to this misguided attack on the voting rights of citizens in Pennsylvania. You can help by sharing this article with your friends and co-workers, and explaining to people why photo ID requirements constitute such a burden for so many Pennsylvania citizens.