“To ask me to enforce something that violates civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do,” Colwyn’s Democratic inspector of elections, Christopher L. Broach, told the Inquirer last week. Broach was explaining his decision not to enforce the state’s controversial new law requiring voters to present one of a few forms of identification at the polls starting this November. The law could disenfranchise many voters in Colwyn, a small, 80-percent-black borough in Delaware County. (Statewide, 20 percent of voters may not have valid PennDOT-issued ID, according to data obtained by CP. In Philly, 43 percent of voters may not possess valid PennDOT ID.)
It would be a simple but vexing act of civil disobedience: When voters go to the polls this November, the neighborhood people who staff polling places throughout Pennsylvania could just plain not ask voters for the identification the law requires.
The legal consequences of defying the law could, however, be tough. Though the voter-ID law does not set out any new and specific penalties, violators could be charged under catchall provisions in the state elections code, leading to fines and up to a seven-year prison term, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. District Attorney Seth Williams’ office says the DA will “look at alleged violations in the same manner as any other election-day complaints we receive.” A spokesman for Attorney General Linda L. Kelly, who could also prosecute lawbreakers, would “not speculate about hypothetical situations.” Currently, prosecutions for elections crimes are exceedingly rare.
Regardless, this is bigger than 2012. Voter-ID laws are a patent attempt by a mostly white, aging Republican Party to safeguard a version of America that’s passing into history. In May, the Census Bureau announced that non-Hispanic whites were, for the first time, a minority of births. Non-whites will be a majority of the population by 2042. Though anti-immigrant scapegoating may energize the base, it dooms Republicans to the margins.
People of all races face the same critical social and economic issues. Indeed, a new poll from Public Policy Polling finds that just 32 percent of Pennsylvanians approve of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who has eviscerated education funding, cut programs that support the poor and women and opened up the state to polluting drillers. It’s unclear if election-worker resistance will take off or succeed. But you can resist by making sure you have proper ID and voting.