Target: Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett
Goal: Continue with online voting initiatives in Pennsylvania to encourage voting
Voter ID laws are often criticized as thinly veiled attempts to artificially skew poll results to favor a Republican candidate by establishing requirements for voting that disproportionally affect a specific demographic—typically minority, middle income, and lower income voters—that have historically voted for Democratic candidates. Republican Pennsylvania House majority leader Mike Turzai all but confirmed these suspicions in an off-handed comment made at a Republican State Committee; Pennsylvanian officials, making no efforts to refute or acknowledge these suspicions, quickly abandoned several online voting initiatives designed to boost voting right as Republican judge officially upheld recently proposed voter ID laws. The right to vote is an essential element of a democratic society—actively preventing any population from participating in the election process is a clear violation of this right. To truly uphold the integrity of the election process, one must attempt to maximize the number of voters who participate, regardless of party bias.
Although GOP officials insist that voter ID laws are crucial to prevent voter fraud—a “crisis” of only one or two officially documented cases—these laws are disproportionately prevalent in places with a high African American population. Their most recent incarnations discriminate against voters who do not have the time or finances to gather additional documentation for the sole purpose of voting on Election Day; this includes lower income level citizens, citizens who don’t have cars or have yet to obtain a driver’s license (such as high school seniors or college students), etc.—coincidentally, these are individuals who are more likely to vote for a candidate running on a comparatively liberal platform.
Some county election officials claim that in the short three months before Election Day, setting up an online voter registration system would be too large of a burden to shoulder on top of implementing and enforcing voter ID laws. However, Stephanie Singer, Pennsylvania’s top election official, remains unconvinced. She and other officials note that the state could take advantage of the absentee voter framework that currently exists and simply allow voters to register and apply for an absentee ballot online; an online voting system would be more convenient and less tedious for both voters and the government employees charged with handling paper ballots. Department of State Commissioner Jonathan Marks responded, “Paper voter registrations and paper applications for absentee ballots have been used by election offices in all 67 counties for years. Voters and election workers are familiar and comfortable with both. We are confident that this system will continue to work well.”
The resistance against transitioning to a more convenient, modern system has been met with disappointment from both voters and public officials who point out that enforcing recent voter ID laws wastes millions of dollars of resources and time spent training government employees that could be better spent on more effective legislature and establishing more effective policies. It should be noted that had State Senator Lloyd Smucker’s attempts to establish a statewide online voting system last spring, time would not have been an issue. Online voting registration has been described as “one of those rare win-win trends … non-ideological, incredibly efficient, and … can be checked instantly against motor-vehicle records,” yet it continues to face opposition while ineffective and unnecessary voter ID laws continue to pass.
Encourage Governor Corbett to oppose voter suppression tactics and uphold the integrity of the election system by demanding an online voter registration system.
Dear Governor Corbett,
Aside from suppressing votes, voter ID laws siphon resources away from various initiatives, such as online voting, that are more likely to increase the number of voters and better uphold the integrity of the current election system. If a voter does not possess the specific form of ID required by these laws, going through the process of obtaining one simply to vote might be considered too cumbersome for low-income voters, parents, youth, and other individuals who would otherwise be eligible. The ability to register online would give significantly more people the opportunity to participate in the election process.
I urge you to redirect the efforts currently directed toward voter ID laws and focus on online voting initiatives instead. The number of eligible voters who participate on Election Day has been consistently underwhelming. This trend has been firmly established while voter fraud remains in the realm of the hypothetical. To truly maintain the integrity of the election process, please make efforts to ensure that every citizen that is eligible to vote has the opportunity to contribute to our democracy.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: misspudding via flickr