Pa. voter ID trial focuses on efforts to inform public of new law

    State efforts to educate voters about Pennsylvania’s voter identification law before the 2012 election have come under scrutiny in the trial over the measure’s constitutionality.

    A University of Pennsylvania expert in political communications has questioned the effectiveness of the information campaign about the new requirement.

    Determining whether voters understood the new law could have been done with surveys at polling places, but the commonwealth opted against it, said Diana Mutz.

    But that doesn’t mean that the informational campaign was ineffective, said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for attorneys defending the law.

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    “The most direct piece of evidence from Professor Mutz was quote, ‘I can’t tell you how successful they were.’ That, in a nutshell, was the most important piece of testimony today,” Hagen-Frederiksen said Friday.

    But one of the lawyers challenging the voter ID law says the state can’t prove the campaign was successful.

    “And what they really did was focus on telling people that they had to have ID at the polls and did virtually nothing to help those individuals who don’t have ID by telling them what they have to do and how to do it,” said attorney Vic Walczak.

    Commonwealth attorneys point to the breadth of the $5 million campaign, which included ads, a website, and face-to-face contact with voters at the polls.

    The trial over the voter ID law will enter its second week Monday. Lawyers challenging the measure say upcoming testimony will include a memo from state agencies to the governor last year urging changes to the law to avoid disenfranchisement of certain voters.

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