Attorney General Eric Holder (Reuters)
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has launched a formal investigation
into Pennsylvania's new voter ID law to determine if the law discriminates against minorities.
DOJ's probe marks the first time it has publicly acknowledged a formal investigation of a voter ID law passed in a state which is not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states with a history of racial discrimination to have changes to their voting laws precleared. The Pennsylvania investigation falls under Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits any state from enacting a “voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”
The state itself has estimated that more than 750,000 eligible voters
don't have acceptable photo identification. A new study
from a University of Washington expert pegs that number at nearly 1.4 million. That's Pennsylvanians who are eligible
to vote. More striking, more than a million actual registered voters
don't have the proper ID. Most of those registered voters think they have valid ID, but actually don't, the researchers found.
Relevant to this investigation, they found that women, low-income, minority, and both young and senior voters are far more likely to not have the necessary ID. As usual.
Specifically, female eligible voters lack ID at higher rates (17.2%) than do males (11.5%). Latino eligible voters lack ID at higher rates (18.3%) than do non-Hispanic Whites (14.0%). The elderly (over age 75) lack ID at higher rates (17.8%) than middle-aged residents (10.3%) and younger respondents (age 18-34) also lack at higher rates (17.9%). Eligible voters who make less than $20,000 annually are more likely to lack a valid photo ID (22%) than all other income categories, most notably those who make $80,000 or more (8.2%), and finally 18.5% of respondents who did not complete high school lack an ID compared to 8.3% among college graduates.
If the DOJ does end up suing Pennsylvania, it will have to show that there is significant racial disparity in the law's effects, as well as the significance of the burden the ID requirement places on would-be voters. In the meantime, the ACLU's case on behalf of Viviette Applewhite
will be heard this week.