A local election official has announced his intention to defy Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law by not asking voters to offer proof of their identity on Election Day.
Christopher L. Broach, a Democratic inspector of elections in the small borough of Colwyn, which lies slightly west of Philadelphia, stated on Thursday, “To ask me to enforce something that violates civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do.”
Broach described the law as “a wholly unethical decision that violated civil rights for the sake of getting Mitt Romney elected,” a reference to the boast by a Republican Party leader that by disenfranchising poor and minority voters the statute “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Broach, who is an IT consultant, an Army veteran, and an African-American, says he realizes he could face criminal penalties for defying the law but that he will not back down. “Rosa Parks made the same decision,” he says proudly.
The new Pennsylvania law is one of the most sweeping in the country. It was recently estimated that some 20% of state residents — and up to 43% of Philadelphians — do not have the required identification, and the vast majority of them are presently unaware that they may be ineligible to vote next fall. The ACLU and the NAACP have challenged the constitutionality of the law on behalf of 93 year old Viviette Applewhite, and the Justice Department is investigating whether it is racially discriminatory.
Although Broach is the only official who has so far taken a stand, there is widespread criticism of the law, and not only among Democrats. A Republican inspector of elections in Radnor Township, Jane Golas, points out that the same standard of proof is not required for absentee ballots. “This is a move by people to suppress the vote in the city of Philadelphia,” she stated. “We never had an issue with people coming in to fraudulently vote.”
Photo of Viviette Applewhite via ACLU