Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day Two of Voter ID Trial - Stats

Highlights from the ACLU Blog:
The full version of the study is available to the public here.
"Less than 86% of eligible voters in the state hold a form of ID that will qualify them to vote."  
"Roughly 379 thousand Pennsylvanians currently have no valid ID for voting, and no ability to obtain one. 174 thousand of those people voted in 2008."
  • 17.2% of women lack valid ID, compared with 11.5% of men
  • 18% of Latino voters, compared to roughly 14% of black or white voters
  • 18% of voters ages 18-34, or age 75+
  • 18.5% of voters with less than a high school education
  • 22% of voters earning less than $20 thousand per year
"42% of voters who said they had no access to regular transportation also had no ID that would permit them to vote. Remember, please, that polling places are frequently within walking distance of an individual's home - PennDOT licensing centers are generally not."
"Baretto remarked that any voter who has an ID with a name that is not an exact match with his or her name on the voting rolls is "at risk" come election day."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

PA Voter ID Debacle

Pennsylvania's voter ID law is under high scrutiny right now. After the ACLU found that more than 1,000,000 voters in PA were without the proper ID, Harrisburg started scrambling. Even more troublesome is that some older folks were not going to be able to obtain an ID due to lack of official documents that were not available. So this week, presumed to curtail the lawsuits and dispute the intention is voter suppression, the Corbett administration unveiled a new Voter ID that is obtainable with much less stringent conditions.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,
"PennDot requires Pennsylvania residents seeking a nondriver ID to provide a Social Security card; a birth certificate with a raised seal; a certificate of U.S. citizenship or naturalization, or a valid passport; and proof of residency, such as tax records, lease or mortgage documents, a firearms permit, or utility bills."
Guess what...those forms of ID are the same exact forms of ID voters have always had to show at the polls in order to vote in a precinct in Pennsylvania the first time. In the past, voters could not vote in a precinct until their identity was confirmed via the same IDs that will be required to obtain a new Voter ID. This was only required the first time they voted in that precinct. However, if a voter moved, they would be required to show ID again.

So let's walk through this. According to the Inquirer article, instead of showing the acceptable forms of ID to say three poll workers when a voter signs into to vote, the voter now shows the IDs to one PennDOT employee. This employee then uses the given identification to create a Voter ID with photo that is good for ten years.

Let's presume for a moment, that voter ID fraud actually happened in PA (there is no evidence that is has). How did it happen? Well, since people who have not voted at a precinct before had to present a form of ID (as stated above), the fraudulent voter would have had to stolen or borrowed someone else's social security card, utility bill, birth certificate, etc. etc. The voter would then have presented these IDs to a poll worker while at least two more poll workers looked on. If a poll worker, or anyone else for that matter in the polling location, suspected this person was not who they claimed to be, the vote could be contested and the precinct judge would be required to fill out paperwork.

Now let us look at how this new ID will prevent such fraud from taking place. A potential criminal looking to obtain a fraudulent voter ID will have to steal or borrow someone else's social security card, utility bill, birth certificate, etc. etc. The criminal would then present these IDs to one Pennsylvania Department of Transportation employee. This employee would then create a photo ID that  has the mug shot of the criminal on a legal voter ID that will allow the criminal to commit voter fraud for ten consecutive years until the ID expires. 

Wait...that doesn't seem to prevent fraud at all, does it? 

No, it does not. While many people do have a proper form of ID to present at the polls, requiring a photo ID does not prevent fraud. Ask any underage drinker who cons his way into bars with Fake IDs how easy it is to obtain fraudulent ID. And well, I think this new Voter ID just makes it so much easier to commit fraud because you only have to fake it one time to obtain a ten year ID. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

When Did Football Become God (or My Diatribe about PSU Scandal)

Anyone who knows me well is familiar with my distaste for American football. It’s not exactly the sport itself that I loathe, but its profane power over our culture. I despise how society notoriously reveres the sport with the same devotion as religious convictions. Coaches and talented players are placed on untouchable pedestals for all to idolize.  They are society’s “heroes,” yet so often are perpetrators of criminal and distasteful acts –making more money than Nobel Peace winning scientists. So one can imagine that the Penn State scandal, involving years of an inside cover-up of unspeakable child abuse, simply reaffirmed my disdain for the sport. A lesson learned, I thought perhaps this scandal could redirect the focus back to what universities are truly for – obtaining a quality higher education.

Today, however, another demigod-like supremacy determined the fate of Penn State. The NCAA sanctioned the university with fines to the tune of $60,000,000 and placed limits on athletic participation in the collegiate realm. In addition, PSU has been denied the ability to distribute scholarships. At the time of this writing, it is unclear what kind of scholarships, but the sanctions are presumed to affect only students in the football program.

One might think I am okay with these sanctions. After all, I loathe the fact that football has become more important than education in our society. But what do these sanctions mean for current and future students of Penn State? One can speculate that 60 million dollars is enough to affect tuition rates. This alone is bad for all students, like me. But even more pervasive is that many talented future athletes may no longer afford or desire an education at Penn State. And let us be realistic for a moment. Penn State has notoriously drawn talented musicians into their University because of the infamous Blue Band. Athletic gymnasts have attended PSU because they want to cheer on the Nittany Lions teams. Some students do come to Penn State to play football. But these students are not necessarily tomorrow’s Mozart’s, Mary Lou Retton’s, or Joe Namath’s. Many are tomorrow’s scientists, writers, teachers, therapists, business leaders, and more. These current and future students are the ones who stand to lose the most. What right does the NCAA, an athletic organization, have to punish students of an entire university? Once again, sports – especially football – seem to be in complete control.  How dare an athletic organization take away opportunity for innocent students because of some very bad administration?  The students and current staff and administration of the university do not condone the behaviors of the past football administration. But we certainly are going to pay for those behaviors.

It seems more fitting that the NCAA should take over sports programs when its ethics rules are broken – not destroy programs in their entirety. This punishment is going to trickle down to everyone who attends the university. And the actual criminals, who will surely receive due punishment by the court systems, will be the least affected by the NCAA sanctions.

It seems that the NCAA’s announcements today only strengthen my disdain for organized sports. Way to go, NCAA.