A case filed by the ACLU and the law firm of Arnold & Porter on behalf of Pennsylvania citizens who will be disenfranchised by the state’s new voter ID law ended yesterday. The case put a bright spotlight on the ways in which the new law will make it far more difficult for eligible Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard this election cycle. These are some of the highlights from six days of testimony:
Day 1: The court heard the testimony of Viviette Applewhite. Applewhite is 93 years old and has voted in nearly every election since 1960. She marched with Martin Luther King in Macon, Georgia in support of civil rights. Despite her commitment to participating in our democracy, this great-great-grandmother has been unable to obtain a voter ID and may not be able to vote in this election.
Day 2: Expert testimony by Matt Barreto highlighted a survey he conducted to determine how many Pennsylvanians lacked voter ID. Barreto testified that about 13 percent of eligible voters to voted in 2008 lack the ID they will need to vote in November. This constitutes approximately 750,000 individuals. The survey also found that 99 percent of participants believed they had the right ID, but 12 percent of those individuals were wrong. Those who have incorrect information risk losing their right to vote on Election Day.
Day 3: Taylor Floria, a 19-year-old man who is especially sensitive to excessive stimulation due to autism, testified about why a trip to a PennDOT office to obtain a voter ID is an incredibly difficult task. The office is nearly an hour away, which means that he must endure a long car ride that causes motion sickness resulting from a physical ailment. The lack of decorum, stimulation, and lighting at a PennDOT office is especially difficult for him to deal with due to his autism.
Day 4: The Department of State originally stated that 89,000 Pennsylvania voters would need a new ID. Then it changed that number to 759,000. In court, the department now claimed that it wasn’t really sure.
Day 5: Steve Jarrell, an Air Force veteran seeking to determine whether PennDOT was prepared to get Pennsylvanians the ID they need to vote, discussed what he discovered. He arrived at a local PennDOT office before it opened but still waited in line for 45 minutes. The only literature he found to inform voters about ID requirements and options were two photocopied sheets of paper tucked into a brochure rack. There was no information on a poster or anywhere else. The PennDOT employee then incorrectly told him that voter IDs are only available for free to Pennsylvanians who moved from another state.
Day 6: Jorge Santana, deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia City Commission stated that there would be 8,000 poll workers in the city. Training is not mandatory and generally about 20 percent of poll workers show up for it. Santana stated that the city is “planning for a mess” if the voter ID law stays in effect in November due to confusion over the law.
Click here for trial transcripts. Judge Robert Simpson is expected to rule during the week of August 13.