At trial, dueling estimates on voters who lack ID

Posted: July 27, 2013

HARRISBURG - Conflicting estimates on the number of people who lack proper identification to vote was the topic of testimony on the ninth day of the trial over Pennsylvania's voter identification law.

A statistician hired by the state disputed estimates produced by a plaintiffs' expert, saying it included dead people and inmates, and counted thousands of people twice.

William Wecker of the Wyoming-based Wecker Associates attacked the methodology used by Bernard Siskin, a Philadelphia-based statistician working for the plaintiffs, as "error-prone."

Siskin estimated that as many as 511,000 eligible voters lack proper ID based on his analysis of Department of Transportation and Department of State databases.

Wecker said many of those voters may have other forms of identification, such as student ID, passports, or military ID.

"No one on this list lacks the ability to vote," Wecker said. "Just because you don't have a PennDot ID doesn't mean you don't have other ID."

On cross-examination, Michael Rubin, an attorney with the Washington firm Arnold & Porter, questioned Wecker's method of establishing mile-wide zones around colleges that assumed everyone within the zones would have access to IDs. Rubin contended that a mile radius around colleges in urban areas would include many nonstudents who were therefore ineligible for student IDs.

Wecker agreed and acknowledged his approach was a "crude method" that would not work as well in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh as it would in rural areas.

Under questioning from Rubin, Wecker said he was being paid $700 an hour for his work and estimated he had so far spent 32 hours on the case. He also said that several of his associates were billing the state at $200 to $500 an hour.

In addition, the Department of State has paid Drinker Biddle, the law firm representing the state in the case, $282,000 for its services since July 2012, according to a state website that provides contract information.

The plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 voter ID law, arguing that it prevents large groups of eligible voters, among them minorities and the elderly, from casting ballots. Supporters of the law say it will deter voter fraud. It has yet to be enforced pending the outcome of the trial.

The trial resumes Tuesday.

Contact Amy Worden at 711-783-2584 or or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.

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