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THE NAACP CONDEMNS PA COURT RULING ON VOTER ID

Today, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied a request for preliminary injunction of the state’s new voter identification law, imposing restrictive measures on Pennsylvania voters during the upcoming election.

“Nearly a month ago, a Pennsylvania state representative openly professed the intent of the voter ID law,” said Jerome Mondesire, President of the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP. “Today, that same brand of politics can claim victory in suppressing the vote.”

Despite no evidence of voter fraud, House Bill 934 was passed on March 14, 2012. During the hearing, both Chairman Metcalfe (sponsor of the bill) and Attorney Bekesha, staff attorney at Judicial Watch, could account for no instances of voter impersonation fraud--the kind of fraud that voter identification laws would address.

“The court had a chance to intercede the PA legislators’ attempt to suppress the vote on Election Day,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the NAACP. “However, with today’s decision and the estimated amount of Pennsylvanians who lack the required photo ID, we will witness a marked decrease in voter turnout and in the number of ballots that will be counted on and after Election Day.”

In 2010, the total eligible voting age population was over 210 million according to census data, and less than half of those eligible to vote went to the polls. That same year the total African-American voting age population was nearly 26 million and only 43 percent voted.   In 2008, when voter turnout was unprecedented, rates were low compared to the overall eligible voting age population.

Among thousands of residents in Pennsylvania, the plaintiffs Wilola Lee, Grover Freeland, Nadine Marsh, Dorothy Barksdale, Bea Bookler, Joyce Block, Henrietta Kay Dickerson, Devra Mirel, and Gloria Cuttino will not be able to vote in this year’s election. For 93 year-old Viviette Applewhite, it will be the first time in nearly 50 years that she will be unable to cast a ballot.

The plaintiff’s counsel will file an appeal following this Court’s ruling.  The Department of Justice issued a letter in March requesting information from Pennsylvania to evaluate the Commonwealth’s compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act—which “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups.”

 “This law, like other state laws enacted across the U.S., has the potential to suppress thousands of votes in the Commonwealth during this election,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The NAACP, in conjunction with its state conferences, will continue to combat these efforts on the ground and mobilize voters. We will have to fight for our right to vote again.”