Monday, July 23, 2012

More than 1 million PA voters may lack valid IDs

The Justice Department is investigating the PA Voter ID law
This just in: the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Pennsylvania Voter ID Act and an expert report submitted to the Commonwealth Court ahead of Wednesday's court hearing on the new law  may help it establish a good case of vote suppression.
The report estimates that 1,055,200 registered Pennsylvania voters (almost 13 percent) lack a valid photo ID and 1,364,433 or 14.4 percent, of eligible voters lack a valid ID to vote in November's presidential election.
If this report is correct, that's more than 1 million of the state's  already registered, already on the books, voters who do not qualify to vote under the state's new voter ID law.  That's out of the state's roughly 8.8 million total registered voters, or nearly one in nine. 
Worse, an estimated 1.2 million eligible Pennsylvania voters think they have a valid ID, but do not, according to the 97-page report based on surveys conducted by Matt A. Barreto, Ph.D., of the University of Washington and Gabriel R. Sanchez, Ph.D, of the University of New Mexico.   
Even worse, 37 percent of eligible voters, 34 percent of registered voters and 34 percent of those who voted in 2008 are totally unaware that a photo ID law exists, the report says.
That's one-third or more of the state's potential voters who don't even know they will need to produce a driver's license or other government-sanctioned photo ID with when they walk into their polling place in November.  Fortunately a majority of them will have a valid driver's license.  Let's hope they bring it with them.
In addition to the lawsuit, Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 330 MD 2012, which will be heard starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, it was disclosed today that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a formal investigation of the state's voter ID law by sending a three-page letter to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele Monday asking her for a bunch of annoying records, including the entire state voter registration list AND the entire current state driver's license and personal identification card list AND all documents identifying registered voters who lack acceptable proof of identification AND the records supporting Aichele's recent estimate that only758,000 registered voters lack state-issued photo ID.
By the way, the DOJ wants those records in 30 days. 
The DOJ's probe marks the first time it has publicly acknowledged a formal investigation of a voter ID law passed in a state which is not covered by Section 5 of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states with a history of racial discrimination to have changes to their voting laws precleared.  The Pennsylvania investigation falls under Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits any state from enacting a “voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”
And, in Professor Barreto's expert report, the DOJ has a big helping hand in proving that minorities are being denied the right to vote.   He found that the biggest impact of the new law will be on Latino voters, 18 percent of whom lack a valid ID compared to non-Hispanic  whites (14 percent)who  lack a valid ID.  Also more women (17 percent) than men (11 percent) do.
The kind of good news is this: Barreto estimates that among eligible voters, 86% of whites and 86.8% of Blacks possess a valid photo ID, and for registered voters the figures are 87 percent and 86 percent.
But enough statistics.  Read the report if you're a statistics maven.
Sufficient to say, we're having some fun now, boys and girls.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The big lie and low-information voters

As Inquirer political columnist Dick Polman so ably points out in today's paper, the Republicans are pushing a lie of colossal, world-class proportions when they claim that the Affordable Care Act is the "biggest tax on the Middle Class in American history." 
In fact, the penalty for not buying health insurance, according to Polman and the Congressional Budget Ofiice, will fall on only 1.2 percent of the public -- those who do not have employment-based insurance,  Medicare, Medicaid or some other government insurance program, like military or veterans' programs, and who are not too poor to pay for private coverage but just won't do it.
By the way, it's not a tax just because the Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional under Congress' taxing powers.  Literally tens of  thousands of fees, tax deductions, tax credits and other government-regulated financial arrangements are allowed under the taxing power that are not direct taxes.   These include the premiums that retired government employees pay for their government-run health insurance. 
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his spokesmen have already flip-flopped on the issue, saying first that he agreed with President Obama that the penalty for not buying insurance coverage is not a tax, then, buying into the party's propaganda, that it is.
Romney is a rather poor candidate to be attacking the ACA, as it is modeled on his own Massachusetts health care plan, which the vast majority of Massachusetts citizens are perfectly happy with.  Which explains why he never talks about his governorship. 
Romney's flip-flopping is not so concerning in the presidential race as three other factors:  (1) voter suppression, (2) the ocean of campaign financing money being raised much more successfully by Republicans than Democrats and (3) Republican TV commercials already saturating the national television markets proclaiming that the ACA is the "biggest tax on the Middle Class in American history."
Here in Pennsylvania, we learned last week that House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R. Allegheny)  boasted to a Republican group that Pennsylvania's new Voter ID law will guarantee Romney's win in Pennsylvania, then we learned that as many as 10 percent of the state's already legally registered voters could be disenfranchised, including upwards of 180,000 voters in Philadelphia.
It was nice of Turzai to finally be truthful about the purpose of the law -- to disenfranchise Democratic voters.  As many, many people have been pointing out for some time, voter fraud involving people trying to impersonate other people at the polls is, and has been, virtually non-existent, not only in this state but throughout the US.
Photo ID not so easy
Those that say, "Well, all people have to do is go down to the nearest PennDOT office and get a photo ID" are delusional.  It is way more complicated.
You have to have  or obtain a Social Security card.  I haven't seen mine in decades, probably since I obtained a new Pa. driver's license in 1991. Everybody knows their number, but many don't have their actual cards.
Step 2 is to have or obtain a birth certificate.  This is sometimes impossible for older people, people who were born at home and people who were born in places where records have been lost over time.  
Step 3 is to make sure your name harmonizes with all your records. If you have never used the name on your birth certificate or if you changed your name when you married, that creates more problems.
Step 4 is to get yourself and your papers to the DMV.  Then you have to request and fill out an affidavit swearing that you will be using the ID only for voting and that you can't afford to pay the $13 for it.  If you have had to pay for your birth certificate or the photo ID card, that's a poll tax plain and simple. 
Students have to have a college photo ID with an expiration date, which as of two months ago, 80 percent of Pennsylvania colleges did not issue.   Finally, if you are not already registered, you have to go do that. 
I can see a lot of students, poor and elderly saying,"Why bother.  I just won't vote."
If that was the goal of Gov. Tom Corbett, Rep. Turzai and Senate Majority Leader Dominick Pileggi,  congratulations, mission accomplished.  
Brainwashing the rest
So once you cull out the 800,000 or so mostly Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, you are still left with the job of making sure the remaining Democratic, independent and Republican voters are adequately subliminally conditioned to vote against their own economic interests and for those of the corporations.
That means running millions of dollars of "Big Lie" TV commercials at every opportunity.  We will not be able to mute or channel-surf away from these ads fast enough, and most people won't even try.  They'll just sit there and absorb the crap-- delivered in stentorian tones while bad photos of the opposing candidates are projected -- until viewers become convinced that whatever they are seeing was their opinion all along.
Many people will go out and vote who have been mesmerized by the ads and haven't bothered to research the facts or issues.   These are the so-called "low-information voters" who -- in enough numbers -- can decide the economic future of generations.
One Tea Party" acquaintance sends me gushing emails talking about how handsome Romney is and how much she loves him, with many multiple exclamation points, even while her own economic and health coverage circumstances are desperate.  But she tells me, she opposes ACA because it might end up covering illegal immigrants.  So much better to deny health care to millions than to let a single undeserving person get away with anything. 
Unfortunately, this woman has a PA driver's license so she will get to vote.