Pennsylvania voter ID law may hurt minorities most, study shows

Posted: August 04, 2012

An analysis of state data related to Pennsylvania's new voter ID law suggests that minority voters in Philadelphia will have a tougher time than white voters in getting the credentials to vote in November.

The study was done by Tamara Manik-Perlman, a project manager and spatial data analyst at Azavea, the Philadelphia data-analysis and software firm that distinguished itself last year by providing population data and mapping tools to let citizens draw redistricting proposals for City Council.

Using data provided by Pennsylvania election officials, originally designed to show which voters do not have valid ID from the state Department of Transportation, Manik-Perlman mapped their voting addresses and correlated the information with census data on race and ethnicity.

The study found that voters in the city's most heavily African American voting divisions are 85 percent more likely to lack PennDot credentials than voters in predominantly white divisions.

And voters in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods are more than twice as likely to lack PennDot ID, the study showed. Manik-Perlman said there was a similar pattern in heavily Asian neighborhoods.

The analysis is only as good as the data it is based on. The Inquirer reported Sunday that the state data on PennDot ID is fraught with problems, mistakenly listing thousands of people as not having ID when they actually have it.

The state refuses to share PennDot licensing data with the public, making it impossible for Azavea to develop more accurate data on its own. The U.S. Justice Department requested the PennDot data last week for its own probe of whether the new state ID law violates the federal Voting Rights Act. - Bob Warner

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