Voter ID on Trial: Philadelphia Election Worker Fears "Chaos"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 1 2012 1:41 PM

Voter ID on Trial: Philadelphia Election Worker Fears "Chaos"

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- I wrote a little earlier today about how hard it's been for the state to defend its new voter ID law. There was a new example of that in the final set of witness testimonies, which brought a leader of the League of Women Voters and a Philadelphia city commissioner into the room to talk about how impossible it would be to educate all eligable voters on the new rules.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

The LWV witnesses haven't added too much to the petitioners' case, and the only tough question to them from the state was about their political activism. But the city commissioner, Jorge Santana, poured forth with details about the state's "soft roll-out" of voter ID. The April 22 primary (for president and lower constitutional offices) was supposed to be a hassle-free test. Voters who showed up to vote, but lacked ID, were let into the polls but given fliers warning them of what they'd need for the fall.

Advertisement

And that's why Santana got worried. At least one-fifth of city voters were getting caught unaware, lacking the right ID. He was worried about "chaos" on election day, with the number of voters requesting provisional ballots quadrupling or quintupling from 2008. Since provisional ballots have to be verified with ID within six days, even a rigorous effort to get those ballots out there wouldn't save every vote. And this is a key argument against the law. The state's not ready for the "chaos."

One of the petitioners' attorneys asked Santana whether the trial, and possible injunction, would help or hurt.

"If this court were to decide that the law was unconstitutional," she asked, "but then the Supreme Court decided that the law was constitutional, how would..."

The state's attorneys objected.

"Actually," said Judge Robert Simpson, who's overseeing the case, "this is a useful question." He allowed it.

"For our purposes," said Santana, "We don't have a plan B. We are working on the assumption that the law won't be overturned... but it would definitely relieve a lot of pressure."

Then came cross-examination, when the state's oddly inept defense re-emerged.

"Wouldn't you agree with me," asked state attorney Kevin Schmidt, "that this is really just speculative, about what will happen on election day. Is that correct?"

"No," said Santana. "It's not correct. We have a basis of experience from our elections, and we have evidence of concern from judges of elections and participants in elections currently, questions that are being raised now."

Schmidt's question had backfired, so he asked it again. "So... you're saying that this is a new experience," he started.

"No," said Santana. "I'm actually basing my testimony not on speculation, but on concerns that have already been made, and on issues that came up during the soft roll-out."

The defense recovered somewhat when Schmidt asked whether Santana was for or against the law, and the election worker admitted that he didn't like it. But the reasons why he didn't like it had been established, quite strongly.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

The Feds Have Declared War on New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Europe’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celebrity Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?