Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bid to Forestall Voter Id Law Given Hearing in Harrisburg

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bid to Forestall Voter Id Law Given Hearing in Harrisburg

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- The hearing held in an attempt to stop a voter ID law from taking effect for the November elections opened Wednesday with several Pennsylvanians testifying they had faced obstacles obtaining proof of their identity.

A coalition of people and organizations is arguing in Commonwealth Court that the law will disenfranchise as many as 1 million eligible voters who are unable to obtain an approved form of photo identification. Among the people they say could be stopped from voting is Leila Stones, a 53-year-old Philadelphia resident born at home in Virginia. Ms. Stones told the court she has tried without success to obtain a record of her birth that would allow her to receive an ID to vote.

Asked what she thinks about the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls, Ms. Stones smiled and paused.

"I'm really disappointed," she said. "They take my right to vote away, and who am I?"

At the start of the high-profile hearing, which is expected to continue through next week, Judge Robert Simpson said he expects to make a decision by mid-August to allow time for appeals before the general election.

The Republican-backed measure signed into law in March by Gov. Tom Corbett requires voters to show a form of photo identification issued by the state or federal government, a municipal employer or a Pennsylvania university or nursing home. People who arrive at the polls without an acceptable ID can cast ballots that would count if they verify their identity within six days or affirm that they are indigent.

Since the law took effect, the Department of State has unveiled new ways for people without birth certificates to obtain an acceptable ID. It has announced it can verify for free the birth certificates of people born in Pennsylvania and that drivers whose licenses expired in 1990 or later can get a new ID without showing a birth certificate or other identification.

Attorneys for the state argued the case is about the prevalence of photo identification requirements for many common tasks. In his opening, Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley said a new form of voter ID under development by the Department of State would reach voters who lack the birth certificate needed to obtain some forms of photo ID on the list. …

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