The Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Eric Holder, has requested that the state of Pennsylvania hand over "information and databases" required to determine whether the state's new voter ID law is discriminatory, according to CBS News.
Pennsylvania's law is one of many of its kind that Republican politicians are pushing throughout the country, laws that rights grops contend are devised as a means of keeping poor and minority voters away from the polls. The Justice Department is taking the measures to ensure that Pennsylvania is in compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits states from passing voting requirements that would disproportionately affect minority voters.
The Department sent a letter requesting the documentation from acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele in an effort to verify Gov. Tom Corbett (R)'s assertion in March of this year that "99 percent of Pennsylvania's eligible voters already have an acceptable photo ID."
Ninety-three-year-old Viviette Applewhite, with the help of the NAACP and ACLU, challenged that assertion when she brought a suit against the state of Pennsylvania. The suit alleges that the new voter ID law infringes on her ability to cast a ballot because she, like an estimated 25 percent of black adults in the U.S., has no form of photo ID. That suit will be heard by a Pennsylvania appellate court on Wednesday.
The state has also claimed that 758,000 registered voters lack appropriate identification, another assertion that the Department of Justice is seeking to verify.
Republicans across the U.S. are pushing for stricter voter ID verification laws, in spite of the fact that a Supreme Court decision from 2007 upholding Indiana’s law was only able to unearth one case of in-person vote fraud in the U.S. within the last 143 years (.pdf). New York University's Brennan Center for Justice estimates that approximately 5 million Americans will be kept from the polls this fall because of the new ID laws, the vast majority of whom will be racial minorities, a constituency that typically does not vote Republican.
Former President Bill Clinton (D) has called the push for voter ID laws a new form of poll tax, deliberately designed to disenfranchise black and Latino voters.
“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” he said.
The Justice Department has already blocked voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas.