Even if there were some evidence of voter impersonation at the polls, how could that justify yoking a basic democratic right to a skill like operating a motor vehicle? How can it be fair, or constitutional, to impose varying levels of hardship on people exercising their rights depending on whether they are in college, work for the government — or whether they have utility bills or mortgage documents in their names?
For example, an 18-year-old Philadelphian whose family doesn't own a car has to jump through a series of hoops to get the proper ID to vote from PennDOT that a teenager with a driver's license doesn't have to.
If that nondriving teen attends a Pennsylvania college that has issued proper ID, though, he can vote, but if he is in high school or working — or looking for work — the process becomes much more difficult. A married woman who changed her name needs more documents than a married man who didn't. A homeowner with utility bills in her name has less of a hassle providing the required two "proofs of residency" than an older nondriver who lives with his daughter. And if a person once had a Pennsylvania driver's license that expired 10 years ago, he doesn't have to show proof that he now lives where he says he does. How is that equal protection under the law?
And why should a Pennsylvanian's participation in the democratic process hinge in any way on access to a computer website to look up information, the freedom to take off work during business hours — or a government agency answering the phone? The Daily News called the Department of State's help number, 1-877-VOTESPA, four times over two days. Each time, we got first a recording, then a prompt to press "1" to "speak with someone," 20 rings, and a busy signal. (A fifth call late Thursday afternoon got us to an actual person.)
And to those who argue that they need ID to drive a car, take a plane or leave the country: What makes you more entitled to vote than people who don't drive, fly or vacation outside the U.S.?
Six days of testimony made clear that Pennsylvania's voter-ID law should be struck down or at least blocked from implementation in November. Unfortunately, we can't count on that. Check with seventy.org for information on getting Voter ID or call 1-866-OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683) and press "1" to get specific questions answered. As the ACLU's Witold Walczak said Thursday, "Without the right to vote, all other rights are in peril." That's true no matter what ID you have or don't have in your wallet.
Clarification: A Monday editorial on voter ID was created by the People's Editorial Board, a group of 10 citizens who come together each month to debate the issues of the day. Their editorial reflected the varying views of that board; the Daily News' editorial position is clearly against the vote-ID law.