Pennsylvanians will be required to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast votes in November, thanks to a GOP-supported voter ID law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett (R) earlier this year. While supporters argued that it was a simple measure meant to combat voter fraud, figures released this week show that the law may affect more than 750,000 Pennsylvanians who don't currently possess identification cards issued by the state Department of Transportation.
According to the report, which compared voter registration rolls with transportation department ID databases, more than 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania have no driver's license -- a primary form of identification. That's 9.2 percent of the state's 8.2 million voters, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In Philadelphia, the state's biggest city, that number balloons to 18 percent of the city's total voting population -- around 186,830 registered voters, according to the newspaper.
The Corbett administration maintained earlier that 99 percent of Pennsylvania voters already had proper identification, and therefore wouldn't need to take additional steps to cast their ballots. The voter ID law does allow for the use of other forms of identification, including U.S. passports, student ID cards with expiration dates and military ID. Because of that, state officials have shown little concern over the latest numbers.
“This thorough comparison of databases confirms that most Pennsylvanians have acceptable photo ID for voting this November,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele said in a news release. “This comparison takes into account only voters with PennDot IDs, and does not include voters who may have any of the other various acceptable forms of ID.”
State officials were also skeptical of the numbers, telling the Inquirer that some voters' status as "inactive" -- or not having voted in the past four years -- as well as the study's name-matching methodology may have contributed to some inflated figures.
The report comes as debate over voter ID efforts continues to heat up. Last month, Pennsylvania GOP House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made a comment about the legislation that opponents quickly branded as a candid admission that such laws were designed to suppress votes for the benefit of Republican candidates.
"Voter ID -- which is going to allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania -- done," Turzai told a group of cheering attendees at a Republican State Committee meeting.
Voting rights activists have charged that voter ID laws disproportionately target students, minorities and elderly voters who tend to vote Democratic. Viviette Applewhite, 93, helped demonstrate the potential consequences earlier this year when she filed a lawsuit against the Keystone State's new requirement, claiming she'd lost all forms of identification that she would need to get the proper voting documents.
Republicans have remained steadfast in claiming that the measures are necessary to prevent voter fraud, an occurrence that is, by most calculations, small.
According to frequently cited studies on voter fraud, there were a grand total of 13 "credible cases of in-person voter impersonation" -- one of the types of fraud most frequently targeted by voter ID champions -- recorded from 2000 to 2010. As Comedy Central's Indecision blog points out, exploding toilets and deaths by television are far more common.