State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Voter ID trial enters second week

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 21, 2013 11:04 PM

The first week in the trial of Pennsylvania's voter identification law wrapped up with testimony about the commonwealth's efforts to educate voters about the new requirement.

The $5 million informational campaign, paid for with federal funds, came under scrutiny with the testimony of Diana Mutz, a professor of political communication at the University of Pennsylvania. The campaign deployed ads, direct mail, and a website, but Mutz questioned its effectiveness, saying the state refused tried-and-true techniques to test whether the message was getting through.

"What [the state] really did was focus on telling people that they had to have ID at the polls and did virtually nothing to help those individuals who don't have ID by telling them what they have to do and how to do it," said Vic Walczak, one of the lawyers challenging voter ID. He said the state can't prove the campaign was effective.

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for attorneys defending the law, said that doesn't mean the informational campaign was absolutely ineffective. He added that focusing on weaknesses on specific ads, the voter ID website, and mailings misses the breadth of the campaign, which included face-to-face conversations with voters during the past three elections, when the law was not enforced.

"We had direct contact with every one of those voters who came to the polls," Hagen-Frederiksen said. "Every one of those voters was asked to show ID thought they were not required to show ID. That, as we stressed today, was just one part of a rather comprehensive effort to reach out to those voters."

The trial over voter ID is entering its second week. Lawyers challenging it say upcoming testimony will include a memo from state agencies to the governor last year urging changes to the law to avoid disenfranchisement of certain voters.

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