Meet The ‘Super Voters’ Who Could Be Disenfranchised By Pa. Voter ID Law

August 8, 2012 8:00 p.m.

Johnson-Goldwater. Nixon-Humphrey. Nixon-McGovern. Carter-Ford. Reagan-Carter. Reagan-Mondale. Bush-Dukakis. Clinton-Bush. Clinton-Dole. Bush-Gore. Bush-Kerry. Obama-McCain.

There’s a small group of Pennsylvania voters who have cast a ballot in each of those elections — and every November election — the state has held over the past 50 years. But thanks to the new voter ID law passed by Republicans last year, a large chunk of them don’t currently have the means to participate in 2012.

Nearly one-fourth of the senior citizen voters who have cast a ballot in the past 50 consecutive elections (including November 2011) lack a valid state-issued ID and could be prevented from casting a ballot in November, according to a new PA AFL-CIO analysis of data provided by the state.Pennsylvania’s “Voter Hall of Fame,” organized by the Department of State, is a list of 21,000 inductees who have voted in 50 consecutive general elections. Of the 5,923 of them who are currently registered voters, 1,384 of them either have no valid state ID or have an ID which expired before Nov. 6, 2011, which would make it invalid at the polls under the state’s voter ID law.

The PA AFL-CIO matched Hall of Fame inductees with a list of registered voters who lacked a form of photo ID, only including individuals who were over 68 years old and who voted in the 2011 election to restrict analysis to still living voters.

One of those Hall of Fame voters is Edith M. Haagen, a 91-year-old from Clinton, Pa. who used to work for the state. She used to have a license, but it expired in 2007 (according to her husband, Sam) and will not be valid under the law.

“I wouldn’t be able to vote if I don’t get some form of ID,” Haagen told TPM in a phone interview Wednesday. “I wondered why it was, what was the problem that they’d pass something like that. It’s awful funny.”

Haagen lives just three blocks from her polling station but will likely vote absentee ballot this year so she can still have her vote counted.

“For an older person, you know, I think it will be a lot of trouble,” Haagen, a former secretary, told TPM.

Jule Mecca, a 90-year-old from Dunmore, had to give up her driver’s license about three months ago because she had cataract surgery. She normally casts her ballot at the polls (her brother-in-law gives her a ride) and is hopeful she will be able to obtain a state issued form of ID before November. One advantage: she worked for Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, or PennDOT, for 17 years.

“I know a lot of people up there, so I shouldn’t have no problem,” Mecca said, calling voting “very important” to her.

“This country is in a bad state of mind,” Mecca told TPM. “I’d like to see the best man get in there. I don’t know why, for what reason, [voter ID was passed]. I couldn’t tell you.”

While a top state Republican bragged that the voter ID law would help Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania, it nearly cost them at least one Republican supporter.

Helen Taylor, an 81-year-old from Doylestown who wants to vote for Romney, wasn’t aware the voter ID law would prevent her from voting until she was contacted by TPM. She no longer drives, and her licence expired a few years ago after she got into an accident.

Taylor first voted for Dwight Eisenhower after seeing him speak in Philadelphia as a young woman. She’s heard some people talking about the law but didn’t think it would affect her. Taylor doesn’t think the law is necessary.

“I mean, here I am, I’m 80-years-old, I live in a retirement community,” Taylor said. “I definitely want to vote. My whole family always likes politics. My parents were Democrats, they loved Roosevelt and all that. But everybody — well there are a couple Democrats left I think — but almost everybody is a Republican now.”

Elizabeth Albers, a 95-year-old from Doylestown, told TPM she just got her ID yesterday after reading about the law.

“If you have friends you should be able to get there. I’m very fortunate, I have several people who drive me different places,” Albers said. “I hope other people do too.”

Several of the voters on the list generated by Pennsylvania told TPM they did have a valid form of identification and that the state had made a mistake. That same data showed that up to 43 percent of registered Philadelphia voters lacked state-issued identification.

Additionally, AFL-CIO’s analysis found that over 79,000 voters who have cast a ballot in every election since 2000 lack state-issued photo ID. The Republican administration in Pennsylvania claimed in a press release that 99 percent of voters already had a valid form of ID but had no evidence to support that claim. While the law was passed to prevent in-person voter fraud, the state admitted it had no evidence that such fraud had taken place in the state.

Carol Aichele, the Pennsylvania official who testified that she didn’t know the details of the voter ID law she’s charged with implementing, says on the Voter Hall of Fame’s website that inductees “hold a special place in Pennsylvania history.”

“They bridge generations – from a time of war and depression to one of peace and prosperity – and understand how precious our freedoms truly are,” Aichele said on the Hall of Fame’s website. “For 50 years, they have placed their responsibilities as citizens of this Commonwealth first. We are grateful for their lifelong commitment to democracy, and we proudly induct them into the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame.”

A Pennsylvania judge is currently deciding whether the state law allowable under the Pennsylvania constitution. The Justice Department has launched a separate Voting Rights Act investigation into the state law.

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