As the Pennsylvania legislature considers requiring voters to present photo ID at polling places, a veteran Philadelphia election official warns that the bill could have an effect little discussed in the current debate: delays and long lines at polling places.
Bob Lee, who runs voter registration at the Philadelphia City Commissioners, says requiring polling place workers to check everybody’s ID could take another 30 to 60 seconds per voter and lead to big delays at peak times.
“I wouldn’t try to vote before or after work,” Lee told me. “Go in the middle of the day.” Lee warns that delays could be even longer in rural and suburban areas, where Republicans predominate. You can read his opinion on the matter below.
I’ve always thought that the voter ID measure is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. While political operatives will look for every advantage and some will break the law to win elections, I have to believe that sending people to polls to impersonate someone else is a pretty rare kind of fraud.
Think about it. How many people can you get to risk federal prosecution by walking into a polling place and pretending they’re someone they aren’t, to get a single illegal vote? Not many, and I’ve never seen any evidence that this is anything like a common problem.
Lee tells the story of some reporters coming to him years ago with a list of more than 90 dead people who were recorded as having voted in the previous election.
When he and the reporters pulled the polling place records, Lee said, it was clear every case was an honest mistake, and none represented illegally-cast votes.
The most common error was a son who bears his deceased father’s name voting, and polling place workers accidentally recording his appearance as his late father’s, whose name wasn’t yet purged from the rolls. Lee said when he and the reportes examined the signatures in the polling place binders, it was clear only one vote was cast, and it was the living son.
I’ve covered a lot of elections in Philadelphia, and whenever I’ve looked into an allegation of massive fraud, it’s turned into something far less than advertised.
I also found this piece interesting, which says academic studies find little evidence of widespread voter fraud, and also little evidence that requiring voter ID has much effect on turnout.
Here’s Bob Lee’s warning about delays at the polls:
While the 11% without PHOTO ID may be disenfranchised, this legislation will have more far reaching effects on voting. If every voter is required to show ID, every election, assumedly poll officials will be required to compare the ID with the registration record in the books at the polls. It is readily apparent that waiting and checking in at the table consumes most of the time required to cast a ballot. If this measure adds just 30 – 60 seconds in processing every one of the 300 – 600 registrants voting in a polling place in Philly in some peak elections (possibly 150 – 360 additional minutes) it will impact every single voter as these delays will result in longer lines and disenfranchisement, even if everyone had, and appears with, govt issued PHOTO ID.
The law ALREADY requires new registrants voting in their voting district for the first time to show ID. In Philly, in many cases if you move across the street or a few blocks away you can be assigned to a new voting district. If they are newly registered in Philly they must show ID. If someone submits a fraudulent registration it will be new thus they must show ID. In many elections in recent years in Philly there have often been more that 200,000 records that were marked where the voter was NEW to the district and required to show ID. That and 6 million votes in an election and just 4 convictions? Definitely a solution in search of a problem that will result in LONG WAITS at the polls for EVERYONE.
Ironically, the Republican sponsors of this legislation do not realize that this law will impact suburban and rural voters far more than it will Philadelphia because Philly has almost every one of its voting districts sized in compliance with law having 1200 or less (average 600-800) registrants. Many voting districts in suburban counties are not in compliance having between 1200 and 3000 registered voters assigned to a single polling place.
They keep this up and soon it will take as much time to vote as it does to board a plane. Remember, next year – arrive to vote 1 – 2 hours early, bring a book and beverage, and Oh – please have your govt issued PHOTO ID out and ready when your place in line finally gets close to the check-in table.