Misleading stats driving Pennsylvania voter ID criticism

Contrary to breathless media reports, there’s no reason to believe over 750,000 Pennsylvanians will be turned away from polling places in November as a result of new voter ID protections.

Upon closer inspection, such reporting is much ado about nothing. If anything, it makes a stronger case for reforming the voting process to protect against identity fraud at the polls.

What the Pennsylvania Departments of State and Transportation did was compare the registered voter list with the driver’s license list. It determined that there are over three-quarters of a million more people on the voter list.

The headlines and lead paragraphs lead one to believe that each of the names on the list represents a legitimate Pennsylvania voter who is not going to be able to vote in November. Slate’s Dave Weigel called it “an apocalypse to watch out for.” A Philadelphia Inquirer report asserts the disparity indicates the new law is “putting … voting rights at risk.”

It’s only past these shocking leads that one learns that other forms of ID are acceptable. Provisional ballots are available. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the names on the list may not even be eligible voters.

As Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele has explained: “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.”

Under Pennsylvania’s new ballot protection rules, other acceptable forms of identification at the polls besides a driver’s license include military IDs, school IDs from accredited Pennsylvania colleges and universities, passports, government ID badges and identification issued by Pennsylvania care facilities.

Care facilities include nursing homes, assisted living residences and other places serving the elderly, a demographic that opponents of voter security measures claim are disproportionally affected. This law defuses that, since facilities have flexibility in creating sufficient ID — as long as it contains a photo, the person’s name, the facility’s name and an expiration date after Election Day.

To run with this report as proof of mass disfranchisement by the new voter protection law is just plain wrong. Plenty of people don’t have a driver’s license. My wife was one of them until the age of 30 because — until then — she lived in a metropolitan area or on a college campus and had no need to drive. But she always had government-issued identification, because an ID is integral to everyday things such as banking, traveling and voting.

Critics of the state’s new voter ID law don’t mention that those 750,000+ Pennsylvania voters without licenses will be mailed a letter from state officials explaining the new ballot security law, what IDs are acceptable and where a free one can be obtained if they need one.