As Americans were preparing to celebrate the Easter weekend, President Barack Obama quietly signed an executive order that establishes the “Presidential Commission of Election Administration.” This nine-member panel will, according to the release from the White House, make recommendations to promote the efficient administration of elections in order to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without undue delay.”
During the State of the Union address, President Obama addressed the reports of long lines at polling places around the country, using an example out of Florida, one of the areas of the country that experienced problems.
“We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours,” President Obama said during his speech to the joint session of Congress. ”And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.”
Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her,” he continued. “Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read ‘I Voted.’”
The commission, which will have six months to report its finding to the White House after its first meeting, will consider a number of points dealing with voter experience at the polls, including:
Earlier this year, my state of Pennsylvania joined many other states in passing a strict new voter ID law. Proponents of such laws claim they are merely to ensure voters are who they say they are, and to prevent voter fraud. This claim has always been a bit questionable. Voter fraud has never been shown to be that widespread.
Several months ago, I wrote here about my dilemma regarding voter ID laws in general. At the time I was severely torn as I felt that both sides were making dishonest arguments. However, in the ensuing months I have been following the Pennsylvania law to some degree. While it does not affect me personally as I have multiple forms of ID, I’m well aware that the areas that will be most affected will be heavily urban, Democratic-leaning counties like Philadelphia and Allegheny (where Pittsburgh is located).
Now a report is out showing that over 750,000 people in the Commonwealth could be ineligible to vote in November. According to the report, as many as 18% of Philadelphia residents may lack valid ID. The actual numbers are likely lower because some of these voters may have non-PennDOT ID’s that qualify. But either way, there are a lot of voters who otherwise could vote that now can’t.