Videos entered in ID case record

One showed a legislator praising the law for partisan effect. In the other: A woman, 94.

Posted: August 01, 2012

HARRISBURG - A Commonwealth Court hearing Monday on Pennsylvania's new voter-identification law featured a pair of videos intended to underscore the law's political overtones and the burden it may impose on some voters.

One clip that was played in open court and became part of the record showed State House Majority Mike Turzai (R. Allegheny) boasting to a Republican gathering in June that the new photo ID requirement "is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania" in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Critics have seized on the comment as evidence that the law erects unnecessary barriers to voting for minorities, senior citizens, and other groups in an attempt to weaken President Obama's chances of carrying the key swing state for a second time.

Turzai's spokesman has said the remarks were unfairly taken out of context.

The other video was a deposition by Bea Bookler, a 94-year-old plaintiff in the lawsuit seeking to bar the law from being effective as scheduled on Election Day.

Bookler testified that she rarely leaves her room in a Chester County senior living center but never misses an opportunity to vote. She said she uses a walker and relies on her daughter to drive her to the polls or take her out for an occasional dinner.

Bookler, one of several voters who testified Monday, said she had not applied for a photo ID for voting mainly because she objects to the requirement.

"I just don't see why I should have to do that. I'm registered to vote. I've voted in every election since I was old enough to vote," she said. "I don't want to knock myself out. It's too hard."

Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley said afterward that Bookler probably could qualify for voting by absentee ballot, which would not require a photo ID.

The videos were played at the end of the fourth day of a hearing before Judge Robert Simpson, who must decide whether to block the law as part of a broader challenge to its constitutionality. Simpson has said he hopes to rule by the week of Aug. 13.

The law, which Republican majorities in the Legislature approved without a single Democratic vote, requires every Pennsylvania voter to show a valid photo ID.

Monday's testimony revolved mainly around conflicting estimates of how many of the state's 8.3 million registered voters lack Department of Transportation-issued IDs - either a driver's license or a nondriver ID - or a special Department of State license being developed for voters who lack birth certificates or Social Security cards acceptable to PennDot.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs contend that at least one million voters - 12 percent of the total - lack valid IDs, based on their polling and on their interpretation of the state's numbers.

Jonathan Marks, who heads the state Elections Bureau, said Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele sent letters explaining the new voting requirements to 759,000 registered voters whose names did not show up on a PennDot database.

Marks said the comparison of the registered voters' list against the PennDot database was designed mainly to "backfill" the voter data with driver's license and Social Security information - not to identify voters who lacked valid IDs.

Under questioning by David Gersch, a Washington lawyer who is part of the plaintiffs' legal team, state officials defended their decision not to mail the letters to more than 700,000 others who provided PennDot numbers when they registered to vote or whose PennDot IDs expired too long ago to be used to vote on Nov. 6.

David Burgess, a deputy secretary of state, said those voters will receive a letter about the voter ID requirement that the State Department plans to send out this year to the 5.9 million households that contain at least one voter.

Those voters already have a PennDot number, Burgess said. "As long as you're in the system, you can get an ID."

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