Pennsylvania State Officials Testify Voter ID Law Is Unfair

A Pennsylvania state court looks as if it will rule against the controversial new voter ID law.

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People vote in the Pennsylvania primary at J & L'S Fresh & Silk's flower shop in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.

The swing state of Pennsylvania spent the last week debating the constitutionality of a new voter-identification law that could impact hundreds of thousands of voters.

As closing arguments were made Thursday, voting rights advocates told Whispers they they believed they had a sure win.

Over the last two years, new and controversial voter ID laws have been introduced across the country due to perceived problems of voter fraud. Many Democrats, however, say they believe the laws were introduced to hurt their voter base, such as minorities and the elderly.

The case in Pennsylvania state court did not begin well for proponents of the new voter ID law, with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acknowledging in a stipulation that they could find: "no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania... the parties are not aware of any in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania... [and] respondents will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred."

The argument for the new voter ID law further disintegrated when Rebecca Oyler, director of policy at Pennsylvania's department of state, said that the Commonwealth had drastically underestimated the number of voters currently without an acceptable ID.

A deputy secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also said the state would not be able to process photo ID cards for the thousands that needed them in time for the fall election.

But it was the testimony from Jonathan Marks, commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, that appeared to put the nail in the coffin. Marks testified that the law violated, in a number of ways, the Pennsylvania Consitution's clause that elections should be "free and equal."

"Sometimes a judges surprises you," said Penda Hair, co-founder of the Advancement Project, one of the groups who filed the lawsuit. "But I think we've clearly shown that the photo ID law violates the state constitution... and I would be very surprised if the plaintiffs did not prevail."

  • Opinion: Voter ID Law Disenfranchises Millions
  • Opinion: Voter Fraud-Deniers Ignore The Facts
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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.