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August 18, 2012 10:25 AM Pennsylvania Makes It Even Harder To Vote

By Ben Jacobs

Pennsylvania has gotten a lot of attention recently for its new restrictive voter ID law which was just affirmed by a state judge this week. However, that’s not the only barrier to voting that the Keystone State has imposed recently.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania suddenly reversed course on implementing a system that allows voters to register and sign up for absentee ballots on the Internet. In an email, a state official said implementing the new system before the November election would be too difficult. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, this news came as a shock to the top elections official in Philadelphia, that state’s largest municipality.

In contrast, New York unveiled its new online system for voter registration this week, just before the voter registration deadline for the state’s September primaries. This was not thought to present any additional complications.

Online voter registration, which is now available in 13 states, does make it mildly easier for people to register to vote. But that’s not the only benefit. It also saves a lot of money.

The data from handwritten voter registration and absentee ballot forms has to be manually entered into computers. This takes time and costs money (not to mention creates a lot of potential for error). A form filled out on a computer can be directly input into a state’s voter database. There are estimates that New York’s law would lead to taxpayers saving at least $250,000 a year as a result.

The decision by Pennsylvania to hold off implementing its online system until after November is bad enough because it may make it more difficult for some to register and to vote. But the fact that this additional obstacle to voting will be subsidized by taxpayers makes it even worse.

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on August 18, 2012 11:34 AM:

    I must have missed the memo where "VOTE" became a 4-letter word.

    And from now on, is it, "Get Out the V*te!"?

    Maybe PA didn't want online registration because they can't tell the color of the applicant?

    Maybe they could have included a paint color swatch to the application:
    "Click on the color that comes most closely matches your own."
    *Click*
    And then, "Please click on it again, to verify that color."
    *Click*
    "REGISTRATION FAIL! FAIL!! FAIL!!!
    Please go to your local registration office and bring all 237 forms of ID with you - including the entry of your name in the family Bible.
    And remember: V*ting is a privilege!"

    After years of supporting "Motor V*ter" laws, now Republicans have decided to do "Hit-and-runs" on "swing-state" v*ters instead.
    At least the darker, older, poorer, and younger, ones.

  • Upper West on August 18, 2012 11:43 AM:

    It's even worse -- The Judge's decision was based on in part on the existence of alternatives to voter ID such as absentee ballots. Now the State is abandoning efforts to make that easier.

    Cynical, obvious and evil.

  • Josef K on August 18, 2012 11:58 AM:

    This is a surprise to anyone? The GOP know this entire election cycle is going against them, that their presumptive nominee is collapsing as they watch, and the media is proving over and over how reality has a liberal bias.

    Of course they're going to try to rig the election. Hell, they may even succeed. The question then becomes that if they do manage that little feat, what will the country's reaction be?

    I don't think it'll be pretty, even if there aren't large-scale protests or civil disruption.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on August 18, 2012 12:01 PM:

    In an email, a state official said implementing the new system before the November election would be too difficult.

    No doubt. Rewriting the voting program Pennsylvania bought from some silicon valley company to automatically "drop" names like Washington and Hernandez takes time.

    I wonder what Pennsylvania moderates and swing voters think about this blatant display of ideological partisan power abuse. For Christ sake the Pennsylvania house majority leader who designed the law is on video saying that this law will allow Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.

  • TCinLA on August 18, 2012 12:37 PM:

    My family participated in the founding of Pennsylvania, arriving as Quaker refugees from the thirty years' war in 1681. In 1688 they were among the first group of Europeans on the planet to make the non-ownership of slaves a condition of membership in their society, and kept up their abolitionism for the next 175 years. Helped create the country by sticking with General Washington and crossing the Delaware with him. Helped found the Pennsylvania Republican Party as an abolitionist party (he was even willing to have his son leave the Quaker church and go fight to end slavery).

    I once asked my father why he had left the family seat in Johnstown, and he said that the stupidest people he ever met outside the South were in central Pennsylvania. Sadly, that's even more true today.

  • Tom on August 18, 2012 1:43 PM:

    as Bradley responded I'm alarmed that any body able to get paid $5077 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you seen this web site (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/PrhbY

  • Neildsmith on August 18, 2012 2:07 PM:

    This is crazy, but I have grudging admiration for what the GOP pulled off in all these states. They have taken full advantage of their victories in 2010. America will get what it deserves if Romney wins.

  • c u n d gulag on August 18, 2012 2:25 PM:

    Good kindly Mod's,

    Please give CRAPTCHA credit for making it tough for commenters to leave a comment, but making it easy for some grifting algorithm named "Tom," whicn can leave ad add for a work-from-home scam on EVERY FECKIN POST!!!

    Man, I wish I'd thought of a great scam like CRAPTCHA!!!

    I'd be sitting at home, NOT HAVING TO WORK, because I'd suckered the WaMo into paying me for some worthless 'spam-stopper.'

    "Stop Spam/Read books" my fat, Liberal ass...

  • Neildsmith on August 18, 2012 2:52 PM:

    If the progressive agenda is dependent on voters who don't have a driver's license, well, I wonder if the agenda is viable.

  • schtick on August 18, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Rather sad when a state is proud of voter suppression and cheating to win an election. PA, you've done your teabagging crooks proud.

  • c u n d gulag on August 18, 2012 3:44 PM:

    neil,
    This is going to seem like "pick on neil day" from me, but here goes:
    I don't know where you live.

    But I've lived in NY City and Philadelphia, and there are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of people without drivers licenses.
    And yes, YOUNG people, too.
    I know. I lived among many of them. Partied with them. Worked with them.

    In large Northeastern cities, often times, driver licenses are about as useful as mammaries on a male bovine.

    Also, often times, no one in the family who lives in neighborhood has a car, so who's going to teach people how to drive?
    And that means having to pay for lessons.

    Then having to pay for, take, and pass the test. For something that a lot of people don't use.

    I lived for 20 years in NY City, and only needed a car once, so I rented one.
    When I moved, I also rented trucks.
    Also too - until the Yuppification of urban areas, people didn't move OUT of the neighborhood. They moved to a better (or worse, if things got tough) apartment IN the exact same neighborhood.
    That neighborhood was their support system.

    Now, voter suppression by requiring drivers licenses in NY City is a moot point, since the state is solidly blue.

    But, the fact that a lot of people - young, black, and old - don't, and NEVER have had, a drivers license in cities like Philly which is in a swing state, is exactly what the Republicans are banking on.

    Republicans know that most of their consituents, living in rural or suburban areas, and even in cities, live in areas where a car, and hence, a drivers license, are necessities.

    Disenfranchising voters because of drivers licenses is brilliant, because people like you don't understand how anyone can NOT have one.

    Go to any of the boroughs of NY City, and I've lived in them all, and I'll find you a lot of neighborhoods where NO ONE has a car, and so, no one - NO ONE - has a drivers license.
    They all use mass transportation.

    The only ID you should EVER need, IS WHEN YOU REGISTER!!!
    If any fraud's going to occur, THAT is when it's likely to happen - that, and an absentee ballot.

    People who don't know things like that, are why the Republicans are doing this.
    AND why they might very well win.

    Sheeeeesh!!!

  • Neildsmith on August 18, 2012 3:52 PM:

    c u n d gulag: I get carded all the time (thank goodness!) buying my favorite beverages. Young people have ID even if they don't have driver's licenses. Democrats got creamed in 2010 before all these voter ID laws took effect. If we lose again, it won't be because of voter ID.

    I like that someone responds to my comments. It's a good debate over policy and strategy. Sometimes I'm even wrong and need to be set straight.

  • c u n d gulag on August 18, 2012 4:21 PM:

    neil,
    I hate to tell you this, but in a lot of those close neighborhoods in cities, no one checks ID. The owners know the kids, their parents, and their ages.
    And if some kid who wants beer or butts badly enough, and walks into his local store and tells the owner that it's for their parents, will get in a lot of trouble when the owner checks with his/her parents the next time they're in the store.
    That's how it's been for many, many decades.

    Now, I haven't lived in NY City or Philly since the mid 90's, so maybe things have changed - they probably have, since the neighborhoods I live in have gentrified.

    But when I lived in an ethnic (read - Slavic) neighborhood in NY in the late 80's, I knew that many of my local friends didn't have ANY ID - except their birth certificates, or their baptismal paperwork. They went to their locally ethnically-owned stores, bars, clubs, shops, etc., instead of the ones owned by other ethnic groups, where they might need ID.

    And I guarantee you I can still walk down there, and find those same people, 20 years older, and STILL without anything like the ID PA's looking for.

    And finally:
    I'm also sometimes wrong, so 'ditto' and back atcha! :-)

  • emjayay on August 18, 2012 4:38 PM:

    I don't know how many young people in urban areas don't have state ID. Certainly some of those who don't go to bars and clubs or buy alcohol haven't bothered. But once a person is old enough to not get carded, I'm also quite sure a lot of non-driving people in urban areas don't bother to get whatever ID or driver's license they did get when they were 21 or earlier renewed. There are actually still some number of married women around who have a family car but don't do any of the driving and never have. There's also the 18-20 year old urban voters who aren't old enough for a state ID to do them any good. They may have a college photo ID which works for them should they need to show photo ID for something.

    Whatever the numbers, it's pretty obvious to just about everyone except the proponents of voter ID who don't want to admit it, maybe even to themselves, that it's all about suppression of voting of those more likely to vote Democratic. All the other voting related legislation that has come up recently just happens to have the same likely effect, perhaps most notably ending Sunday voting when a lot of black people went to the polls after church.

    Of course there is a history of voter fraud in this country in different places at different times. But it has historically not ever been what would be the absolutely most ridiculous and difficult and expensive way to do it. Trying to skew an election result with individual voter impersonation doesn't even make any sense.

  • Hedda Peraz on August 18, 2012 6:52 PM:

    gulag, I suspect the owners of this site really don't give damn about us- Craptcha is proof. Curious, as advertising produces revenue, and the more visitors/eyeballs, the more money to pay people like Ed. . .

    You really should try out Benen's new digs; once registered they seem to know who you are, and your comments- with italics, bold, etc are there in all their glory. Plus like minded souls can give you a 'thumbs up', and when you get 5 a green star appears above your comment.
    A lot of the old crew are there, several times a day. Plus, the trolls can be slapped upside the head, in real time!

  • dweb on August 18, 2012 9:05 PM:

    Post on Kos today details the story of a PA resident who tried to go to a DMV office in Pittsburgh to get an ID card, only to be told to come back Aug 27th, when they will "start taking applications for the card." They are using every trick in the book to delay and stall.

  • Cha on August 19, 2012 12:06 AM:

    You make me laugh, c u n d gulag..

    [b]"Good kindly Mod's,

    Please give CRAPTCHA credit for making it tough for commenters to leave a comment, but making it easy for some grifting algorithm named "Tom," whicn can leave ad add for a work-from-home scam on EVERY FECKIN POST!!!"[/b]

    Why does CRAPCHA have to be so hard to read? Like a damn eye test to get into Harvard? Why can't it just be words written down that you have to retype? Huge Frustrating time Waster. And, Ageist!

    And, dweb..that's Scary! WTF! Storm The Bastille?!

  • Rich2506 on August 19, 2012 8:19 AM:

    Oh, good heavens! Now the Inky is even reprinting the works of that noted vote-suppressor Hans von Spakovsky!
    http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20120819_Voter_ID_objections_miss_the_real_need.html
    Truly sad that this guy gets any press anywhere. I was especially amused by his statement: "Much has been made of the state's admission in the ACLU lawsuit that there have been no "prosecutions of in-person voter fraud." But as an appeals court said when it upheld Indiana's voter-ID law, "without requiring a photo ID," there is almost no chance of detecting such fraud." So, let me get this straight, we have to pass a law that mightily inconveniences Democratic voters in particular in order to determine whether in-person voter fraud is a problem worth expending time and effort on. Ri-i-i-ight!