The battle over Pennsylvania’s voter identification law has reached a critical moment. Yesterday, the state Supreme Court asked a lower court to reexamine the policy. It’s asking how the state can ensure that all registered voters will be armed with valid photo identification at the polls.
But the answer is clear — it can’t. What the state Supreme Court should question instead is how a law that disproportionally affects the elderly, poor and minorities might skew the outcome of this year’s presidential election. It should ask whether a law that potentially disenfranchises thousands has a place in a liberal democracy.
Proponents of this law argue that it will stem voter fraud — a problem that barely exists. According to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there have been no investigations of in-person voter fraud in the state. The law — passed on partisan lines — hinders rather than helps the democratic process by restricting the number of people who have a say.
Most Penn students have been taught, from a young age, to regard voting as the pinnacle of a participatory democracy. In 2008, more than 89 percent of undergraduates crowded the polls — a feat we hope to replicate this year.
Penn students, through luck of the draw, have been sheltered from the worst effects of this law.
Come Nov. 6, an army of first-time voters will simply have to present their PennCards at booths in Houston Hall to cast their ballots. Unlike many IDs issued by colleges throughout Pennsylvania, PennCards are printed with an expiration date and can pass as a valid form of photo ID.
But this is no reason to be complacent. Penn students must stand in solidarity with our peers across dozens of campuses throughout Pennsylvania who don’t have the right ID to vote. The best way to do this is to educate ourselves on issues and exercise our right to vote.
It’s also our duty to get involved in this year’s election — whether through volunteering for a campaign, joining the Penn Democrats, the College Republicans or participating in the bipartisan effort, Penn Leads the Vote.
Admittedly, there is little sense to a law that enfranchises 18-year-old Penn freshmen while preventing the daughter-in-law of a former U.S. president (Annenberg School for Communication professor David Eisenhower’s mother) from casting a ballot because she lacks a valid ID.
In a democracy, there is no place for a law that restricts people from voting simply because they lack a driver’s license, a passport or a PennCard.