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Study: Penn. Voter ID Law Disproportionately Hurts Blacks, Latinos

The controversial Pennsylvania law requiring residents to have valid photo ID in order to vote would disproportionately disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters in Philadelphia, according to a new analysis of available data.

The study compared the state’s database of valid ID’s with the voter rolls and determined that 1.3 million of the state’s 8.2 million voters didn’t appear to have valid IDs—and 362,000 voters in Philadelphia, or one of every 3.

While the study authors acknowledge that those numbers are probably greatly exaggerated because of the unreliability of the data, but even if they are off by a lot, the analysis still suggests that there are perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in the state who will have problems producing valid picture IDs in accordance with the state’s new voting laws. The analysis also shows that the neighborhoods with the most blacks and Latinos are where the ID problems are much more likely to be concentrated.

The study is important because while Republicans claim that they have passed the restrictive new laws in a dozen states to stop voter fraud, the Obama administration has mounted a legal challenge to the Pennsylvania law, saying that it discriminates against minorities. Leading up to the trial, Pennsylvania officials were forced to admit that they had no cases of voter fraud they could point to as justifying the voter IDs.

According to Tamara Manik-Perlman, an analyst at Azavea, a Philadelphia geospatial software firm, voters who live in the the city’s most heavily African American neighborhoods are 85 percent more likely to lack a valid ID than a voter who lives in a predominantly white area. Hispanics are in even worse troubles—voters in heavily Hispanic areas were 108 percent more likely to lack the right ID than those in white neighborhoods.

An analysis by the AFL-CIO similarly showed the problem areas concentrated in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“It’s clear to me that the intent of the law was to hit Philadelphia in just this way, in a disparate way,” said Stephanie Singer, the chair of Philadelphia’s election commission.

Despite the claims of Republicans, she said voter fraud is not the problem. “The problem is that democracy is in a crisis in this country and the way we solve it is by connecting people to elections, not pushing people away from elections,” she said.


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