Easton Area Voices Weigh in on Voter ID Ruling

Judge Robert Simpson's ruling to uphold Pennsylvania's new Voter ID law spurred strong reaction from both sides of the issue.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson upheld Pennsylvania’s controversial Voter ID law in an announcement Wednesday. Simpson, who is from Nazareth, said he wouldn’t grant an injunction to stop the law requiring all voters to show an official photo ID before voting.

Witold J. Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union, which fought the law, told The Washington Post that the case isn't over. “It’s why they make appeals courts.”

Here are some local reactions to the ruling:

State Sen. Bob Mensch, a Republican who represents the 24th District which includes Easton, Wilson and West Easton: 

“I really expected that it would be upheld,” Mensch said. “The other side was trying to use the courts to legislate.”

He said opponents of the law are offering supposition about inconveniences some voters may face but for those who can’t get to the polls – such as senior citizens who don’t drive – they can vote by absentee ballot.

“From everything I’ve seen from the polls and data more than 75 percent of the people in the state approve of Voter ID, he said. "Voter ID will simplify all the issues, I really believe that. Particularly when we use ID for so many other things in our lives.”

State House Rep. Robert Freeman, a Democrat who represents Easton, said he was very disappointed in the judge’s decision because the law provides an “artificial, unnecessary barrier to the constitutional right to vote.”

“There have only been four cases of voter fraud documented in Pennsylvania since 2004 and the instances of voter impersonation are non-existent," he said. 

“What it’s really designed to do is suppress the vote from people who have been traditionally core groups for Democrats,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of senior citizens who will walk into that polling place with expired licenses and they won’t be a allowed to vote.”

Freeman cited an example from last spring after Ohio adopted a photo ID law. “In Aurora, Ohio, in the March 6 primary, an 86-year-old veteran who lived in his neighborbood for years but has an expired license goes to vote,” Freeman said. “The poll workers knew who he was, they knew he was a registered voter but he didn’t have the proper ID. He was denied the right to vote.”

Ronnie DelBacco, vice chairman of the Easton Republican Committee, said the city GOP put together a seminar at the senior center at Centre Square in Easton in June to educate the public on what the law would require so they wouldn’t be turned away at the polls in November. He said he has heard public service announcements telling voters where to get the proper identification.

“One by one states are adopting laws to prevent fraud at the voting booth,” he said. “We need a photo ID to do just about everything… Why wouldn’t we want a photo ID to protect our most sacred right to vote?”

Alan Jennings, executive director of Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, said the law is “clearly a deliberate effort to disempower certain voters on behalf of other voters.” 

Jennings cited Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s declaration at a GOP State Committee meeting. Turzai said: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”

“This is a blantant effort, as sinister as it is cynical, to take away the most fundamental right we have as Americans,” Jennings said. “Unless the judge doesn’t understand the day-to-day travails of average people, it’s unimaginable that he could have come to that decision.”

Jennings said his organization works with people who don’t own cars and don’t have the kinds of jobs they can just leave to go “deal with government bureaucracy” to get an official voter ID.

“It’s the kind of thing that has led so many people to give up their faith in our democracy or the notion that they have any say in their government,” he said.

John Faulstick, who lives in Palmer Township but is on the board of the Wilson Borough Republican Club, said it’s not difficult to get the state- issued identification.

“Every responsible adult should have some form of identification on them,” Faulstick said. “Most senior citizens are responsible enough to have ID. I know my mother is 75 years old, she doesn’t drive and she has a state-issued ID.”

Faulstick said an exception should be made for those people who are voting by absentee ballot because they are elderly, sick or disabled. 

Walt Garvin, the chairman of the Northampton County Democratic Party said he was extremely disappointed in the decision and warned there will be long lines at the polls on Election Day.

“It was not uncommon to have lines two and three hours long during the past three presidential election cycles,” said Garvin of Bethlehem Township, who is also the former chairman of the Northampton County Election Board.

“The practical impact of this legislation will double and triple those times. Many voters may simply walk away on Election Day,” he said. "Shame on the Republicans in Harrisburg for this despicable attempt to frustrate the Pennsylvania electorate.”

Garvin said the Democrats have obtained a database containing the names of 18,000 registered Northampton County voters who do not have driver’s licenses and are trying to reach out to them to educate and help them get the identification they will need to vote.

Garvin also said he is working with senior centers in the region to help them issue their own photo identification cards, which can be considered valid identification at the polls.

Easton Councilman Roger Ruggles, a Republican:

Roger Ruggles said he agrees with the court’s decision to uphold the law so long as it doesn’t make it too difficult for voters to get proper ID.

“Personally I think it’s good for individuals to show an ID but on the other hand it ought to be relatively easy for individuals to get an ID," he said. 

Ruggles, a Lafayette College professor, said he understands there are circumstances where it might be difficult – for example, if someone loses his citizenship papers he needs to obtain ID and would need to pay hundreds of dollars to get copies – but Ruggles said those cases are relatively rare.

He said people are asked for identification often for lots of reasons. "I’m almost 60 years old and I was asked for ID to buy a six pack the other day.”

Adrian Shanker, who works in Easton and is president of Equality Pennsylvania, which advocates for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people, said:

“It’s a solution in search of a problem meant to suppress the vote for people who are most at risk for not having an ID and that includes transgender people as well as seniors, students and communities of color.”

“The reality is that it is impossible to apply this uniformly to voters when voters in some Pennsylvania counties don’t have a local [Drivers License Center] to access Voter ID and when some voters have certain limitations that have prevented them from having these IDs in the first place.”

He cited as an example some transgender people who are in the process of having their legal names changed and might still be registered to vote under their old name.

“Under this voter suppression law, the onus is on the voter to make sure they have the right ID to be able to vote in the upcoming election. And unfortunately, that’s a difficult process for some voters.”


freeandequalpa August 16, 2012 at 01:12 PM
For anyone interested in a detailed summary of the Court's opinion: http://freeandequalpa.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/petitioners-request-to-enjoin-enforcement-of-photo-id-law-denied/
Kara August 16, 2012 at 01:38 PM
If state republicans wanted to pretend that this wasn't about politics and were really concerned that all Pennsylvanians have a valid ID they would push the enactment date one year, so this would not go into effect during a presidential election season and the poll workers would not be inundated with larger volume and new rules and people would have plenty of time to get the required paperwork in order and take the required time off from work to spend a half day at a PENNDOT licensing center. But this is about politics and about disenfranchising a block of voters that aren't historically republican. And that is disgusting.
Amend August 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM
...yeah, what Kara just said. What's the rush anyway? Are the republicans implying that they believe that there is enough alleged voter fraud as to sway the upcoming election? That would be a bold statement considering how little evidence there is of voter fraud. Are there tens of thousands of fraudulent votes being cast that the public is somehow aware of, yet the politicians are?
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Adrian, So then are seat belts a solution in search of a car accident? Prevention happens BEFORE an incident occurs. Fraud can be prevented and detered with Photo ID. Because it may not be a big problem now doesn't mean we shouldn't take preventative measures to ensure it doesn't become one. Walt, Really?? People who are committed to casting their vote are unlikely to "walk away from a long line" and give up their vote. If that is really your concern, then the problem isn't photo ID, its commitment and/or apathy on the part of those who would choose to walk away and give up their sacred right to vote simply because the line is too long. Why aren't you concerned about the lines at DMV? Those poor disenfranchised undocumented drivers...what a shame. Alan, are excessive gun laws also "a blatant effort, as sinister as it is cynical, to take away the most fundamental (2nd amendment) rights we have as Americans”? One might make that same argument, but liberals have no problem with those regulations. Bob Freeman, for example, was one of only 39 state reps to vote against the expansion of the castle doctrine which further protects law abiding Americans when they need to protect themselves against an attacker at home. Photo ID will further protect Americans' from identity theft at the polls...even if it isn't a huge problem right now. (prevention)
Amend August 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
@Ronnie- if fraud isn't currently a huge problem, then there is no rush to enact this legislation prior to the upcoming election, correct? And ask Newark what it thinks of pennsylvania's straw purchases and strict gun laws.
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Kara, 1) DMV has Saturday hours...no half day off needed in most cases. 2) This is no "rush-rush" effort. It has been in the works for months now and the rules are very easy to comply with. Democrats are seen in Easton every election day driving constituents to the polls to vote. So, just drive them to DMV. It doesn't take that long and these arguments are nothing more than frivolous excuses. CERC held an open information session in June at the senior center downtown to educate the public. It was advertised, especially to seniors who may be most affected. There was only one (1) woman 103 years old who found the info helpful. She doesn't drive but got a ride to the session and to DMV. She now has her current photo ID...free from DMV.
louis kootsares August 16, 2012 at 02:43 PM
the boo hoo liberals need to shut up this country is not great because of cry babies and it will not be great if we do not get rid of a president who may go down in history as a bigger traitor than benedict arnold i know i will not vote for anyone who tries to eliminate our 1st and second amendment rights
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Amend, There will always be "an important election" and therefore always the argument to delay legislation on such an issue. This didn't pop up yesterday. Regarding the straw purchases...the only people who will obey gun laws are law abiding citizens. The stricter the gun regulations are, the more unarmed victims there will be since the criminals will always find a way to get a gun when he wants to. The states with the most gun regulation tend to have the highest amount of gun crime. The states with the least amount of gun regulation tend to have much lower gun crime. Look it up, but I digress. The issue is Photo ID...which I also need to legally exercise my 2nd amendment rights.
Amend August 16, 2012 at 03:09 PM
@Ronnie- regarding your response to Kara, you say in most cases that it doesn't take very long to get an ID at the DMV but what threshold are you using; 49% of the time it takes less than an hour, 25%? You glibly state that the "dems" should just drive those in need to the DMV when it's the supporters of this legislation who should be the ones assisting those affected, and one "seminar" to a small group of elderly doesn't cut it. That's passing the buck. As far as this being in the works for months, why would anyone initiate getting a new ID until the court proceeding end and declare it a necessity? That's not laziness, that's prudence. Those in support of this legislation should stop talking down to those who question it's timing and merits. It's a big issue not to be light of simply because some think it's easy. As far as the 2nd amendment goes, you brought it up. I'd like you to site statistics that back up your claims instead of asking me to do so. Personally, I don't think a ban on straw purchases and assault rifles would negate my 2nd amendment rights or make me any less safe. We keep a handgun in the house. Maybe we all need to own AKs...just to be safe.
Pat Shane August 16, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Voter ID is a violation of the 15th amendment. This is Voter Suppression at its finest. Watch the video and sign the petition to end Voter Suppression. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9TjVsQa57c
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Amend, 1) My comment, "in most cases" refers to not needing a half day off, not the time it takes DMV to issue an ID. 2) True, it was only one seminar, (that's exactly 100% more seminars than the Easton Dems held on the issue) and it was open to ALL and attended by a much younger crowd, not mostly seniors. I don't read or hear seniors themselves actually complaining about this...just others speaking for them. Where are all these troubled seniors you speak of anyway? Senior citizens are smart, intelligent people, not helpless convalescents as some would have us believe. They somehow figure out how to file tax returns, pay bills, see the doctor, shop, visit, and everything else they choose to do. They have been doing it longer than anyone my age and you would have us beleive they can't handle getting a photo ID?? In comparison to all the other daily activities of life, getting a photo ID is miniscule.
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Text of the 15th Amendment Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. So tell me, where does it say that a requirement for ID will suppress votes?
Amend August 16, 2012 at 04:27 PM
@Ronnie- so then by that logic, those who are elderly that have spoken out against this legislation are somehow less than those you're using as an example? I also wasn't reducing the discussion to just the elderly. Moreso, it's about the large number of people the state has said may not have valid ID, of which some are elderly. How is the state prepared to handle what could be a massive influx of citizens looking to acquire the proper ID? What provision have they taken beyond press releases and a seminar here and there? Reducing this issue to partisan discourse seems dismissive and distasteful. This shouldn't be about party politics, and if it is about that; a means to an end, then shame.
Kara August 16, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Ronnie- How long does it take for someone to acquire the required documentation BEFORE they have to spend hours at the DMV? That is an unknown, as the elderly woman in the recent Doylestown patch article experienced. I'm a stay at home mom, and I recently had to get my license renewed. I sat, with a 3 yo and an 18 mo, for 2+hours, and that was on a week day. The lines are significantly longer on weekends. So don't act like it isn't a hardship. Push it one year, and I won't think it is a political ploy.
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Amend, On this we agree, "This shouldn't be about party politics, and if it is about that; a means to an end, then shame. It isn't. Protecting the integrity of ones vote is an equal opportunity concern. Regardless of party, everyone should support such an effort. It is suspect why the democrats have decided to fight against this issue for photo ID and not other issues where photo ID is required but poses much less threat to identity fraud. As for "those who are elderly that have spoken out against this legislation", I ask again, "Where are they?" I haven't seen or heard from seniors (accept in very partisan political circles, like Sandra Vulcano). The general public has not produced a mass of seniors complaining about this. Again, it is others speaking on behalf of those they think need speaking for. If there are seniors concerned about this, CERC has offered to help them get their Photo ID. I didn't write the bill, vote on the bill, or pick the timing of it. You'll have to ask your representatives about that. What matters at this point is that we help those who actually need the help to get a photo ID. I would suggest you spend your efforts in that area and check in with your neighbors and family to make sure they are covered.
Ronnie DelBacco August 16, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Kara, Quick math tells me there are at least 576 hours left to get a photo ID from DMV, not counting Sundays or evenings. If it takes three times as long as it took you that still leaves a person with approx. 567 hours of "open" time at DMV. I don't know how long it takes, but the woman I mentioned earlier took care of it in one day with a ride from a neighbor. (leaving her 567 hours remaining). It's a futile argument and frankly I don't see how you can justify the complaint with so much time left before November. By the way, I got my driver's license photo done on a Saturday. It took less than 20 minutes. They had 2 lines going and the waiting area, though filled, was moving along nicely...a big surprise given DMV's reputation for slowness.
Amend August 16, 2012 at 06:52 PM
@Ronnie- if there is no political motivation, then putting it off by a year shouldn't be a concern. That should allow enough time for those affected to react. My representative is Bob Freeman. His position seems clear. I appreciate your attempt at concern regarding those I know who might be affected, but i feel that if you were truly concern about those being affected you wouldn't be marginalizing their position or trivializing the issue. You would be seeking a delay in the legislation to protect them and their voting rights. Anything less is smacks of repression.
Amend August 16, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Sorry, that should read suppression not repression.
DOCurmudgeon August 16, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I laughed out loud when I saw that one needed a photo ID to get into Michele Obama's book signing. Apparently you need one to get her autograph, but don't need one to vote for her husband.
Ken White August 17, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Please tell us how Obama tried to eliminate those rights protected by the First and Second Amendments?
Kara August 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
2nd amendment rights have actually been EXPANDED under the Obama administration - There have been 2 laws passed - one allowing people to take guns on Amtrak trains, and another allowing guns to be taken into national parks. He hasn't tried to renew the assault-weapons ban, or proposed a national system of gun licensing, or adopted any of the other changes advocated by those who oppose gun proliferation. So don't get your conspiracy theorist panties in a bunch about Obama and the 2nd amendment - it's just lies the NRA (a trade organization who wants more guns manufactured and sold) wants you to believe.
Ken White August 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM
The problem with our political system is that we allow politicians to participate in it. Considering how rare voter fraud really is, this whole thing is clearly politically motivated. Anyone who thinks otherwise is both nigh and eve. Let's face it, everything politicians do is politically motivated. They represent the team (party) first and then us. Which party is worse? They're both pretty bad, but I'd give the Republicans a slight edge on being worse. Why? Because, aside from the lengthy litany of flaws that each party exhibits, many Republicans have the Zeplin-sized ego (inflated with 100 percent pure hubris) required to actually think they have the right to tell consenting adults who they can or cannot marry. (If any of those Republicans call themselves Christians they'd better drop their opposition to gay marriage. Why? Because one of the most basic tenets of Christianity is that old classic, "Do unto others as you would have done to you." So, unless these Republican "Christians" are willing to let perfect strangers make their marital decisions for them--do unto others...--they'd best vote for gay marriage or face the wrath of their God for failing to comply with that oldie but goodie. And judging by the full text of the Second Commandment, that God is one grouchy dude). Also, many Republicans have the mistaken and misogynistic belief that they hold dominion over the tummies of women in America and not the women themselves.
louis kootsares August 21, 2012 at 06:48 PM
thats the right thing to do you need voter id.. no telling what ayahtolla obahma will try to do to get votes he has no record to run on just a record to run away from only the comatose or boohoo liberals do not know that
Ken White August 22, 2012 at 06:19 AM
I wonder, where do you primarily get your information, your news? As a liberal, I try to get mine from many sources. And some of those sources are conservatively biased. Fox News, for instance. I go on there daily to see their take on things. I wonder, do you ever visit sites that are liberally biased to see, perhaps, another viewpoint? It may help you make more coherent arguments. About voter ID, as someone has already suggested, if this wasn't purely politically motivated because of the presidential election, this could have waited a year to implement. Since it was rushed into law, it's clear that it's not driven out of a concern for the sanctity of our voting system, but by a concern for sanctifying Mitt Romney (and whoever rides his coattails) the winner in November.


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