Voter ID: The Good & The Bad

Posted by By at 10 April, at 07 : 56 AM Print

I have some very good news for young, able-bodied, white, urban, upper & middle class individuals with cars.  The new voter ID law clearly favors us – this small, but prominent, group of Pennsylvanians.  For lack of a better label, I will call us, “the 2%.” If that name sounds similar to anything you’ve heard before, it’s only by chance.

This new law will most likely not affect the 2%. We, upstanding citizens by virtue of our birth, already have IDs. If our ID has expired, we will drive to the local PennDOT, and renew it. Thanks to the law, if we forget our ID, we can still vote. We just need to get our information together within 6 days and send it in, and all is forgiven.

Of course, what is good news for some is often bad for others. With any law, there are unintended consequences. There are a few of us that may have a difficult time with this new law. Take my little sister, for example. She once lost her ID and unbelievably managed to board a plane (even post-9/11) with a fake theme park photo ID (Six Flags, Great Adventure, anyone?). She may not be so lucky when it comes to voting. She often loses her ID.  The absent-minded among us may also lose our right to vote.

Outside of the 2%, others who might have a difficult time with this new law are the homeless. Though they can access funding to subsidize their IDs, they often do not have the luxury of transportation. This law will prove to be a new barrier to them. Individuals with low incomes in rural areas may not be able to afford getting a photo ID either. Thought the law does allow valid photo IDs from nursing homes to pass in order for seniors to vote, it still creates a barrier for those not in nursing homes, who lack transportation.

What about college students? Yes, a valid photo ID from a college or university is allowed. But every student ID I’ve ever possessed has no date of expiration on it. Will it even be accepted at the polls? Or, as Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) wondered, what about a cosmetology school ID?{{1}} Even sponsors of the bill were unable to answer some of these questions. It will be just as unclear to volunteers working the polls.

Now let’s talk about how this new law will actually help constituents. We already know it won’t make a difference for people who already have IDs, for the 2%. We know that it will create difficulties for those who do not have an ID and who have fewer resources. So…who does this law really help? What is the purpose of the voter ID law?

Governer Corbett says that it is a preventative bill, to prevent voter fraud.{{2}} The pro-voter ID argument is that all Pennsylvanians should have a right to vote, and to have their votes count. I’d say that’s a pretty fair statement. I want my vote to count just like any other American. But the truth is, there are no statistics that support the assertion that voter fraud is, or ever was, a problem in Pennsylvania.  In fact, countless reports say just the opposite.

If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Why pass a law to fix a nonexistent problem, thereby creating more of a problem for certain groups, not to mention costing the state estimations of between $5 and $11 million?{{3}}

As Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) has said: “Our democracy is weakened when one sector of the population is blocked out of the voting process.” I’d recommend that our legislators brush up on the Women’s Suffrage Movement, or the Civil Rights – read a book, take a history class. The point of the voting process is to make voting accessible to all individuals. Isn’t that one of the main ideals our country was founded on? Isn’t that the purpose of democracy? Maybe, instead of coming up with more ways to create barriers for voters, we could determine ways to empower Pennsylvania citizens of all races, backgrounds, and ages to engage in the voting process, to participate in the process of government that enables ordinary citizens to affect change in their own state and country.

 Photo by Metropolitan Police

[[1]]Angela Couloumbus, “Courts and polls may be next stop in Pa. voter ID law fight,” Philly .com, March 15, 2012.[[1]]



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Micalagh Beckwith Moritz is a social worker who practices in Harrisburg, PA as an outpatient therapist for low-income youth and adults. She also works with the Joshua Group, a non-profit that mentors youth in Harrisburg, focusing on providing opportunities for education. She completed her undergraduate degree at Messiah College, and her Masters of Social Work at Temple University. She is passionate about helping to empower individuals to share their stories (through writing or other means) and to create positive change in their lives and the lives of others. She and her husband live in an intentional community in Harrisburg with five other members. - Email Micalagh Beckwith Moritz

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