Latino News and Opinion

Suppression or ineptitude?
Por Editorial   
10:54 | 04/27/12
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VOTER ID SIGNS at a Cumberland County polling place (top photo), and one in Dauphin County, imply that a photo ID was necessary to cast a vote in the April 24 primaries. Archivo particular

You will need to show picture ID to vote in the presidential elections in November, but the new Voter ID law wasn’t supposed to impact voting during the recent primaries in Pennsylvania. Poll workers might ask to see photo ID, but it wasn’t a requirement to have one —  or show one — in order to cast a ballot.

According to Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele, whose purview is to administer Pennsylvania’s electoral process, this “soft roll-out” during the April 24 primaries went fine.

“The process seemed to work well,” she said in a a statement issued the day of the primaries. 

But the ACLU of Pennsylvania isn’t so sure. 

In their “Speaking Freely” blog post of April 25, the civil rights organization included photos from a polling place in Cumberland County that had a sign posted that read — in large display type  — “ID Required to Vote.” Beneath, in type too small to read from a distance, was more information, presumably including the notice that, yes, you could still vote in the primaries without a photo ID. 

The ACLU blog post presents a few anecdotal instances of people turning away from the polling place after seeing the sign — and gives instance of another vague and confusing sign at a polling place in Dauphin County — so it’s certainly no proof of trend. But it does raise questions. 

Was signage like this widespread at polling places? Did eligible people “self-deport” from the ranks of the voting due to them? And, were the signs the product of unfortunate ineptitude, or a deliberate attempt to intimidate voters?

In a round table discussion with Al Día staff shortly before voter ID passed and Gov. Corbett signed it into law, Aichele asserted that the state would do all it could to help ensure that no Pennsylvania voter was disenfranchised by the institution of Voter ID.

Aichele seemed sincere in her desire to make information available those most likely impacted — the poor, the elderly and Latinos. Moreover, she said, everyone from DMV to poll workers would be engaged to help ensure maximum voter participation.

Look again at the photos. One would hope that the Commonwealth would have people on staff with an understanding about how public signage works. It isn’t rocket science, folks. BIG TYPE WINS. We know this in the newspaper industry where it is a battle to get anyone to read beyond the headline. An “In November” preceding the rest of the display type in the Cumberland County sign would have sufficed. Was there really no one who thought of this? 

Or, are the photos inconvenient evidence of what the voter suppression activists have been squawking about since the law was first proposed in the state? That by any means necessary — redistricting to the 2000 census figures instead of 2011 ones or instituting the requirement of photo ID a mere month before a primary and nine months before the presidential election — the Commonwealth’s governor, his administration and a legislative fellowship are actively working to ensure that certain Pennsylvanians WON’T vote. (See how that big type thing works?)

Ineptitude or suppression?  Either way, it’s time to own up.

 

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