New voter ID laws across the country could play a pivotal role in turnout this coming presidential election. It's a steady topic of discussion here at The Last Word, where I have been working as an intern this summer. I go to college in Pennsylvania, 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia — a swing state no less — so I was curious to see if these new laws would affect my very first time voting.
Most state department websites have the current voter ID laws and voter registration process, so I went to check out mine on VOTESPA.com. Once I got to the website, I realized that I am ineligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election. I panicked to myself that thousands of other college students must be exempt from this law. I called one of my peers in a panic, and she confirmed that we cannot currently vote.
According to the new voter IDs laws in Pennsylvania, "all photo IDs must contain an expiration date that is current, unless noted otherwise."
My college ID, like many other students, does not have an expiration date, deeming many of us unable to vote.
Some colleges have been looking to mend this problem. The Dean's Office at Bryn Mawr College, where I'm enrolled, told me they plan to redesign and reissue IDs to show date of births and expiration dates. Though since every college or university is different, there is no general consensus on how colleges will specifically get the message out to its students on the extra hurdle, or whether students will go the extra step to acquire sufficient identification.
This is seemingly easy fix for a college student does not solve the greater issue for thousands of residents in Pennsylvania. Some people may not have the flexibility to get off work to obtain an ID or simply not have the means to acquire new identification.
According to a new study out by the ACLU, nearly a million registered voters in Philadelphia lack valid ID in order to vote. Many political players and government agencies have been speaking out against the new voter ID laws, saying that the right to vote is being jeopardized by state's legislation.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told MSNBC's Hardball, "There is no voter fraud." During his eight year stint in office, he said he encountered less than two cases per year of someone committing voter fraud. Rendell said the new law targets "heavily Democratic" and "heavily minority and older" voters in left-leaning areas.
The issue is now being taken up by the courts. Civil rights groups started to challenge the law in state court on Wednesday and U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation Monday to dertmine whether the law is discriminatory.
— By Kelly Wilkinson