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Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Will End in Chaos at Polls, Official Says

A court case in Harrisburg over Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law continues this week. And one election official from Philadelphia warned of carnage at the polls in testimony yesterday.

The state’s new voter identification law is expected to create great confusion in Philadelphia on Election Day, when thousands may discover they are ineligible to cast ballots, according to a city election official.

That could entail widespread conflict at polling places, trips by voters to election court, and the use of provisional ballots that would not be tallied for days while identification matters are resolved.

“I’m anticipating a mess,” Deputy City Commissioner Jorge Santana testified at a hearing in Commonwealth Court in a suit challenging the law.

He said the voter ID law had strained the resources of the elections office and threatened to create “tension, stress, and delays” at polling places bracing for high turnout in a presidential election year.

Regulations need to take informing the public and preparing for the fallout into account, and they often do not. In the case of Pennsylvania, staggeringly little effort has been made on this front. The company contracted to publicize the law is owned by a big Republican donor and Romney bundler. I don’t think the goal is to be effective and comprehensive, especially in the low-income communities affected. So the result is likely to be, as Jorge Santana testified, a mess that will undermine confidence in the election results.

The ruling in this case is expected the week of August 13. All eyes in the voter suppression world are on Pennsylvania, because it’s the biggest and swingiest state with an active voter ID law, and whether it stands or not will have the biggest effect on the election. But it’s not the only hazard. And it’s not the only way Republicans are attempting to suppress the vote. Sometimes it’s through the sin of omission:

More than 13,000 ex-felons may be eligible to vote in Florida but don’t know it because the notices the parole board mailed to them were returned as undeliverable, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

The civil rights group raised the concern after analyzing more than 17,000 names of ex-felons who had their voting rights automatically restored by the Florida Parole Commission.

The list was obtained under the state’s public records law and included ex-felons whose Restoration of Civil Rights certificates were returned undelivered to the parole commission.

The Florida case is interesting. Former Governor Charlie Crist restored voting rights for felons who completed their sentences in 2007. Rick Scott repealed that. But those released from prison between 2007 and 2011 are eligible voters. However, if you just don’t tell them they’re eligible, you can get away with not having the restoration of their voting rights matter. Scott, who has tried to purge eligible voters from the rolls, can achieve disenfranchisement in this case just by not informing eligible voters of their rights under the law.

We still don’t have a constitutional right to vote in this country. It wouldn’t serve the interests of one of our political parties.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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