As a legal challenge to Pennsylvania’s voter ID law gets under way, led by the ACLU, the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into the state’s new new voting requirements.
The DOJ has requested documents from Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele, including voter records and records on who holds state-issued IDs.
Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia Law School professor of law and political science, says these cases are difficult to investigate because the state has no recorded instances of voter fraud, which the law was ostensibly passed to address.
But Persily says data on the impact of voter ID laws on Election Day is murky.
“You have a problem in these cases where you have the sort of invisible plaintiff versus the sort of imaginary problem,” Persily says.
“While there are real people who will not have their votes counted, it is also the case that if someone is able to navigate all the hurdles to file a federal lawsuit to have the voter ID law as unconstitutional, they’re also the type of person that could put in the effort to go get a photo ID,” he said.
The ACLU is arguing in its court case that as many as 1 million voters lack the necessary identification to vote. Voter ID has become a politically divisive issue. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the laws the equivalent of a poll tax when he spoke to the NAACP. The DOJ also has challenged voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.