Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sides Lining Up in Voter Id Argument Forces Are Mustering in Pennsylvania against the State's New Voter Id Law

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sides Lining Up in Voter Id Argument Forces Are Mustering in Pennsylvania against the State's New Voter Id Law

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- Critics of the new voter ID requirement rallied in advance of opening arguments today in a legal challenge, while the secretary of the commonwealth defended the law and said officials will comply with a separate federal review.

The Republican-backed measure requires voters this fall to show an approved form of photo identification at the polls. The Department of State has revised its estimates of how many voters might lack an acceptable form of identification, and last week it released details of a new voter ID card that could be obtained without a birth certificate.

In a hearing that begins this morning, a coalition of challengers will argue the law violates the state Constitution by burdening eligible voters who lack the required photo ID. Attorneys for the challengers have pointed to an agreement by both parties that neither side is aware of cases of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and that the state will not argue in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in November without the voter ID law.

"What you're not going to hear about very much is voter fraud in this case," said Jennifer Clarke, an attorney for the challengers and executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on the July 12 stipulation. But in court filings, attorneys for the state argue that legislators need only a conceivable purpose for the legislation -- not known cases of voter fraud -- for the law to meet its constitutional burden. They also write that the opponents have shown no credible reason that people without an acceptable ID cannot obtain one in the three months before the election.

"Voting, like so many other constitutionally protected activities, does not occur without each person sharing the responsibility to exercise that right," the brief says.

The law also faces a review by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which on Monday informed secretary of the commonwealth Carol Aichele that it is examining whether the law complies with the section of the Voting Rights Act which, according to the department's website, prohibits voting practices that "discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in one of the language minority groups" identified in the law. …

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