The 2012 presidential election will be held 47 weeks from today.
While the Republican presidential wannabes continue to duke it out, concerned citizens, civil rights and advocacy groups are fighting to make sure that every voter has equal access to the ballot. With the wave of new voting requirements since 2008, the Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than five million registered voters may be disenfranchised.
And the new restrictions keep coming. Yesterday the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee passed the “Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act” to protect against, um, “voter impersonation.”
In a recent op-ed, state Sen. Daylin Leach told the real story of voter impersonation:
A study conducted by President George W. Bush's Justice Department found that, out of more than 300 million votes cast from 2002 to 2007, there were only 86 cases of voter fraud nationwide and that most of them involved immigrants who misunderstood their eligibility. In Pennsylvania, since 2004, there have been more than 20 million votes cast and four convictions for fraud, all of which involved people registering when not eligible. None of these cases involved someone pretending to be someone she was not.
Fraudulently impersonating a voter is already a felony. Risking years in prison to gain an undeserved vote seems like a low-gain, high-risk crime, which is probably why it never happens. In addition, a voter already has to show proof of who he is the first time he votes in a new precinct. Thus, under current law, Pennsylvania has significant and apparently effective protections in place to ensure the integrity of the voting process.
So Pennsylvania may soon be added to the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law “Map of Shame.”
We know what the problem is. With the election 329 days away, we can be part of the solution.
One of the lessons of the Tea Party and Occupy movements is that citizens don't need permission to advocate for their own interests. If you are concerned about the impact of photo ID requirements on voter turnout, pull up a chair and get involved with the citizen-powered Cost of Freedom Project.