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Almost half of Philadelphia voters might be banned from presidential election

Almost half of Philadelphia voters might be banned from presidential election
Under a new voter ID law that may primarily affect minorities and elderly Americans, 43 percent of Philadelphia city voters may find themselves ineligible to vote when they try to cast their ballots this November.

Data obtained by the Philadelphia City Paper found that 1,636,168 PA voters might not have valid IDs to partake in the 2012 presidential election.

The new law requires voters to show an ID issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which includes licenses, driver’s permits and state IDs. While the exact number of voters who lack the proper identification to vote is impossible to determine, the number is higher than 9 per cent in PA and 18 per cent in Philadelphia – numbers that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State announced in July. Initially, the state claimed that only 1 per cent lacked valid ID.

“The reality is that thousands more Philadelphians will be impacted by the voter ID law than was originally maintained by the State Department,”said Ellen Kalplan of the Committee of Seventy, which is working towards equipping citizens with valid IDs.“Even taking the lowest possible number, it’s a huge hurdle to overcome.”

Some voters may have inactive PennDOT IDs, or have federal or student identification cards that the state now considers insufficient.

Regardless of whether or not they have registered to vote, Pennsylvanians whose licenses have been expired for one year will be ineligible to cast their ballots.

Although state lawmakers claim that the new law would help prevent voter fraud and keep non-citizens from voting, recent court filings show that the state has not investigated or prosecuted a single vote fraud case.

Former President Bill Clinton expressed outrage regarding what he calls vote suppression efforts.

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,”he said at a Campus Progress conference in Washington.

Pennsylvania is now facing trial for the controversial voter identification law. Civil and voting rights groups claim that the law discriminates against minority voters, who are less likely to have a valid ID. As a result, the 2012 election could be severely affected by leaving out the votes of such a large percentage of Pennsylvanians.

The state’s law is also under investigation by the US Justice Department, which is analyzing Pennsylvania data to see if those lacking ID are disproportionately African-American or Hispanic.

But the state’s constitution says all elections should be free and equal, and preventing just one person from voting would violate the constitution.

Attending Wednesday’s court session was Vivian Applewhite, 92, of Philadelphia. The woman is a regular voter, but does not have a valid photo ID. She was adopted and does not have a birth certificate. She has never had a driver’s license. Four years ago, her purse was stolen with her only copy of her Social Security card. If this law is upheld, Applewhite will be denied her right to vote for the first time since she first voted in 1960.

The federal government is investigating the state to determine if the law violates the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to prohibit rules that make it more difficult for minorities to vote.

Of registered PA voters, 98 per cent believe they have a sufficient ID to vote, and only 35 per cent are aware of the new law. If the law is not deemed unconstitutional or in violation of the Voting Rights Act, more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians may be shocked to find themselves turned away from voting booths on election day.