Analysis lends credence to claims of voter ID law’s unequal impact

Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law continues to stir opposition. Wednesday afternoon, opponents of the measure met at Bright House Baptist Church in North Philadelphia to tout a new analysis that reinforces what they’ve believed all along.

As soon as Pennsylvania passed the law requiring that voters show photo ID, many opposed it, saying it could disproportionately affect urban minorities.

But this was just a theory without much hard science to back it up.

Into this question mark came Tamara Manik-Perlman. She works for Azavea, a company that uses maps to analyze data patterns.

She combined PennDOT’s info on who already has an ID with Philadelphia’s district-by-district voter registration data. She compared that with the 2010 Census’ block-by-block info on racial demographics.

Her findings were striking.

“As the percentage of the population that was white increased, the fewer problems there were,” said Manik-Perlman. “Conversely, as the percentage increased in terms of the population that was African-American, the more problems there were. So what it shows is that there’s a clear patterning.”

But wait, some supporters of the law say. Just because there’s a correlation between the lack of ID and a racial demographic, it doesn’t necessarily mean the law intends to disenfranchise one ethnic group over another.

But Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer says intent isn’t the issue.

“Are we trying to answer what causes people not to have voter ID? No. We’re trying to answer the question that is dictated by the law, the voting rights law, which is: Does this law have a different kind of impact on African-Americans then it does on whites? And the clear answer from these numbers is yes.”

Gov. Tom Corbett has repeatedly defended the idea, saying you need to show photo ID to board a plane, enter a courthouse or do lots of things in modern society. He also says it will help curtail voter fraud.

The Pennsylvania State Department recently announced that as many as 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million voters lacked driver’s licenses or non-driver’s photo IDs.

A ruling on the court challenge to the ID law is expected next week.

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