State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

Warring statisticians in voter ID trial

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 25, 2013 9:35 PM

Court is in recess for now in the trial over the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's voter identification law. The trial is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

Questions of numbers and statistical techniques filled the ninth day of testimony. Lawyers spent hours questioning the state's statistician, William Wecker, who offered a critique of the estimate provided in testimony last week that half a million Pennsylvania voters don't have proper voter ID on record with the commonwealth.

The law's opponents had hired Bernard Siskin, a statistician who said he found about 511,000 Pennsylvania voters don't have an ID valid for voting on record with the state.

Alicia Hickok, a lawyer with the firm Drinker Biddle & Reath arguing on behalf of the state, dismisses the analysis as not credible. She said to conclude those voters have no other form of ID requires several more steps - like individual interviews with each person without a driver's license or Department of State voting ID card.

"You would say to [each] person: who are you, what is your need, what is it that has to happen, and you would know, then, if there actually was any kind of a systemic gap," Hickok said. "But right now it looks like there's no systemic gap."

Wecker, the state's statistician, said he identified tens of thousands of people within the 511,000 population who are either ineligible to vote or likely to have another kind of valid ID for voting. Wecker said he estimated about 66,000 people who are likely, by virtue of their age and location, to have another kind of valid ID issued by a college or care facility.

Michael Rubin, of the firm Arnold & Porter and among the lawyers challenging voter ID, claimed Wecker's analysis comes with its own problems.

"A lot of those colleges he used don't issue IDs," Rubin said. "A lot of the care facilities - most of the care facilities - that he used to come up with these numbers don't issue IDs."

But lawyers for the state say many colleges and care facilities aren't issuing photo IDs now because the law has been on hold.

The state's position is that it has made valid ID for voting sufficiently accessible to voters who want them, and therefore, the plain number of voters who don't have one is immaterial. Hickok said there is still a fail-safe for voters who face more difficulty getting to a PennDOT licensing center: they can vote provisionally at a polling place in their election district after signing an affirmation of indigence.

The commonwealth is still in the midst of presenting its case. Lawyers plan to call at least two more witnesses.

Court is back in session Tuesday, and the trial is expected to continue through Wednesday.


Published in State House Sound Bites

Tagged under

back to top

Give Now

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »