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

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.