Despite an Oct. 2 ruling by a Pennsylvania judge putting the state’s new voter ID law on hold, a series of misleading ads and announcements is creating confusion and fear among residents two weeks before Election Day
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled that election officials can still ask voters to produce photo identification, but not require it as a condition of casting a ballot. Simpson, who called photo ID a reasonable and non-discriminatory requirement, said there wasn’t enough time before the Nov. 6 election to ensure that voters who lacked photo ID would not be disenfranchised by the change in the law.
That critical detail in Simpson’s opinion — that photo ID is not required in this election — has been lost in much of the $5 million advertising campaign by the Pennsylvania Department of State, voters rights advocates charge. On buses, one ad displays a photo ID with “SHOW IT” in big block lettering. In smaller type, it says photo ID is not mandatory. Moreover, state officials acknowledge that it was not until Tuesday, a full two weeks after the court opinion, that the last of the pre-decision billboards announcing photo ID as a requirement came down.Confusion has been deepened by an announcement that accompanied October bills sent to 840,000 customers of PECO, the Philadelphia power company, saying that voters must have a valid photo ID. Company officials said the newsletter started going out to customers a couple of days before the court decision.
Irwin Aronson, an attorney for the The Lawyers Coordinating Committee of the AFL-CIO, a group of 2,000 volunteer labor attorneys working on elections rights issues in key states, said that the act of poll workers even asking for photo ID could end up suppressing the vote in some communities.
More of this this election year’s GOP strategy - if you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em.