The Administration of Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania is stamping its feets about Justice Department requests for documents on the state’s new voter ID law. They don’t want to turn over the data on how many voters could be disenfranchised the law, for fear that the DoJ would… find out, I guess.
In a letter dated Friday, Corbett’s general counsel, James D. Schultz, wrote that the federal government had no legal authority to make such a request, and suggested the Justice Department’s inquiry was “fueled” by politics.
Nonetheless, Schultz’s letter said, the state might “voluntarily” comply with the request if federal officials first promise not to disclose confidential data about voters [...]
The Justice Department said it wanted the information in order to gauge whether the state’s new law complies with the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s ban on election laws or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or language.
The Justice Department has authority under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to try and block the voter ID law from taking place in Pennsylvania. It requires a higher threshold than the Section 5 pre-clearance requirements in states with histories of discrimination. But it is a lever that DoJ can pull. That Pennsylvania is freaking out so much at the document request suggests that they have something to hide.
Initially, the Corbett Administration claimed that 99% of the state’s eligible voters had proper photo ID to comply with the voting law. Then they had to revise that, as the Secretary of State released information that 9.2%, or 750,000 voters, lacked the proper ID. DoJ wants to understand the discrepancy.
Corbett’s counsel goes on and on about DoJ’s “absence of authority” for requesting this information, and the political motivation for the request. He also cited the judicial ruling within Pennsylvania allowing the voter ID law to go forward. Of course, that’s immaterial at the federal level.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania residents remain angered by the hardships created by the new law.
Marian Berkley has managed to make it through her first 83 years without a state-issued photo ID [...]
Berkley, a retired factory worker, found herself sifting through personal documents with voting rights activist Karen Buck to get in order the vital records she’ll need to acquire a state ID so she can vote.
Most of Berkley’s necessary documents were in place — a birth certificate noting that she was born on a farm in Delaware, a Social Security card and utility bills in her name.
She still needs to track down her marriage certificate to certify that her last name changed. Berkley could run into trouble if someone at the state ID office decides to quibble about her first name being spelled differently on her birth certificate than it is on her Social Security card, said Buck, the executive director of the SeniorLAW center.
“Really?” asked Berkley, who has been homebound in recent years after multiple hip operations and other ailments. “How much more do I have to do to prove who I am?”
This is the kind of activity that will have to be done all over the state to ensure that voters don’t get disenfranchised. And it’s about more than the effort it will take; it’s about how many eligible voters WON’T go through this process and will get denied at the polls.