Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter — the top elected official in a heavily Democratic city where up to 43 per cent of voters may lack a valid form of state-issued identification — is taking the potential impact of Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law on Philly voters “very, very seriously.”
Calling the law “a bad solution looking for a problem,” Nutter, a Democrat, told TPM he would nonetheless use city resources to get the word out about the new law and help Philadelphia residents obtain a valid form of identification to use at the polls in November.
“We should all certainly be concerned about the integrity of the voting process, there are a lot of ways to ensure that,” Nutter told TPM in a phone interview Tuesday.
“But it clearly appears to me that this is one of the most frustrating, confusing, and — at the moment at least — poorly implemented solutions to a problem that we’re not even sure what it is, ultimately, that we’re trying to prevent or going to prevent,” Nutter added, referring to the state’s lack of evidence of in-person voter fraud.
While noting that the state’s estimate of how many voters lack a form of ID issued by the state’s Department of Transportation “seems to change every day,” Nutter said the initial estimate — that 18 per cent of Philadelphians lack state issued ID — “gives us a lot of concern.”
“There are many, many Philadelphians — senior citizens, folks of Puerto Rican heritage not born here, can’t get IDs, can’t get the birth certificates; folks who may be sick or in nursing homes, other folks who potentially have to spend money to then get other documents to then get a free ID,” Nutter said.
Other forms of photo identification are accepted under the law (though Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele couldn’t tell you what they are), but the state itself and many municipalities issued employee IDs which didn’t include an expiration date as required under the voter ID law. Nutter said Philadelphia will now be placing expiration dates on their IDs so they were valid under the law. He said the city will also use its infrastructure — advertising on city owned buildings, distributing flyers and advertising the new rules on its website — to get the word out.
“Our goal is to make sure that no one is denied that right to vote who is an eligible voter and who should not have any obstacle or barrier placed in his path as a result of this particular law,” Nutter said. “We have a law, it has a potential negative impact on people, and I’m going to spend my time and effort focused on how we make sure everybody has the necessary ID under the law and can go and vote on election day for whoever they want to vote for.”
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