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Pa Judge's Ruling Revives 'Taxation Without Representation'

By       Message Linn Washington       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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One week before a Pennsylvania court judge upheld that state's controversial Voter ID law by concluding the measure's impact was "neutral and nondiscriminatory" critics of that law released a disturbing study documenting the law's discriminatory impact on voters in Philadelphia.

The recent ruling by Pa Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson rejecting a request for an injunction blocking implementation of the Voter ID law in November's presidential election dismissed claims that the measure would adversely impact the elderly, infirmed, college students and racial minorities.

Yet, a geographic analysis of voter data in Philadelphia, Pa's largest city, concluded that the Pa's "new strict photo ID requirement may be in effect a racially discriminatory voting procedure"African-American and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by the Voter ID law""

That analysis, prepared for Stephanie Singer, chair of Philadelphia's three elections supervising City Commissioners, detailed how areas around Philadelphia's major universities like the University of Pennsylvania and in heavily low income/minority neighborhoods, contained the largest percentages of persons now rendered ineligible to vote under the Voter ID law.

"This law has a racial impact," Singer said about the ID law formally known as Act 18.

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According to the analysis, the "spatial distribution" of persons lacking the required ID to vote is "non-random."

While the analysis only examined Philadelphia the researchers stated the patterns they discovered probably existed in "rural and even suburban" areas of Pennsylvania.

"I'm very much opposed to this law but I have to enforce it since it is the law," Singer said about the measure that now requires state issued photo identification in order to vote -- even from voters who've utilized the same polling place for decades.

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Stella Tsai, past president of the Asian-Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, said she is concerned about the ID law's adverse impact on Asian-Americans.

"Our citizens in Philadelphia face language problems already. This law will increase problems," Tsai said. "The key here is for all Americans to be eligible to vote. We can't allow laws to create barriers."

Judge Simpson stated in his ruling that he was "convinced" that all eligible voters in Pennsylvania will "have their votes counted in the general election."

Simpson's ruling in this Voter ID law battle that has drawn national attention relied on testimony from Pa officials who promised that measures will be in place by early September to provide ID cards to all who need them by the October 9 deadline for voter registration or the November 6 election.

Simpson stated Pa officials presented "more credible evidence" in his courtroom than evidence presented by ID law opponents that included various expert witnesses and persons now disenfranchised like lead plaintiff Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old woman who participated in Civil Rights Movement marches in the 1960s with Dr. Martin Luther King.

Judge Simpson embraced promises by state officials from conservative Republican Pa Governor Tom Corbett's Administration, the same officials who initially stated that only 80,000 Pennsylvanians did not have the proper ID needed to vote.

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But months after proclaiming the new law only impacted one percent of Pa voters those officials made startling admissions in Simpson's courtroom.

Officials admitted that nearly 1.5 million Pa residents -- not 80,000 -- do not have valid state issued driver's license or DMV issued ID the new law demands for voting rendering eligible voters ineligible to vote.

Pa's law, for example, requires a birth certificate as one document needed to get a driver's license but an acceptable photo ID is required to obtain a birth certificate -- a Catch-22 circumstance.

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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)

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