Pa. Voting Rights Coalition to fight Voter ID Law

Pennsylvania Voting Rights Coalition Operations Chief Joseph Certaine at podium, with Philadelphia County Commissioner Stephanie Singer, far left, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Elizabeth McElroy, near right, and Pennsylvania NAACP President Jerry Mondesire, far right. — PHOTO BY ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

With Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court hearing on Monday the merits and legality of the Pennsylvania Voter ID Law, the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Coalition on Wednesday gathered a great cross-section of politicians and community leaders — including Pennsylvania NAACP President Jerry Mondesire and Philadelphia County Commissioner Stephanie Singer — to discuss where the law currently stands and provide details of the coalition’s next wave of activism.

Those efforts will include further educating Pennsylvanians about the law, convening on Monday a voting rights rally at the state capital, and doing more intensive get-out-the-vote work in targeted communities, said Coalition Operations Chief Joseph Certaine.

“We came together as the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition in March of 2012, on the eve of the commonwealth’s enactment of one of the most restrictive, so-called Voter ID laws in the country, an unnecessary obstacle to voting that particularly impacts poor people, senior citizens, young adults, people of color, persons with disabilities and urban populations,” Certaine said. “Advocates and defenders of the law still have not provided any evidence that in-person voter impersonation fraud is a problem in Pennsylvania, nor can they cite a single instance of it in our state.

“Conversely, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele — when she was lobbying in favor of the law — repeatedly stated that she believed ‘only’ 1 percent of Pennsylvania voters, more than 80,000 voters, do not have acceptable ID for voting,” Certaine continued. “And it is very likely that the real number will be revealed to be several times higher … for those of us who believe in democracy and its foundational principle, who value the sacrifices made on the battlefields of history to defend it, and who honor the civil rights activists who took action to expand it to every American, even one citizen deprived of the right to vote is one too many.”

The coalition — in recognition to the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke a section of the Voting Rights Act geared toward establishing voting equality, especially in the southern states — has changed its name to the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Coalition to reflect the group’s stance on the issue. The coalition will release updates via its new website, and through its Twitter account, @PaVotingRights.

The court hearing that begins on Monday will decide if Act 18 of 2012 — otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Voter ID law — will be in play during the November General Elections. Singer confirmed that the ID law is “the law of the land,” and she intends to enforce it, but Singer voiced strong displeasure with it, saying that she “does not like this law,” but at the same time, cautioned that groups and individuals need to arm themselves both with knowledge of the law — and a valid ID for the fall.

“Some people think that Voter ID is dead because it was not enforced for the 2012 general election. Voter ID is alive and well in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is the law, and the law is, on November 5 of this year, people will need in Pennsylvania photo ID to vote at the polls. That is the law,” Singer said. “So what can people do? First, make sure you have the ID you need to vote. And the next thing is to get involved and help friends and neighbors get involved with voting rights coalitions. But for this particular Voter ID law, it now rests in the hands of the state courts and state legislature.

“Voters do have power in a democracy, and that power comes through actually going to the polls and voting.”

Mondesire reaffirmed the NAACP’s support of the coalition while questioning the need for such a law, especially when the infrastructure is not in place to fully implement the controversial measure. Mondesire also said the entire nation will be watching and states, one way or the other, will view Pennsylvania’s movement as a precedent.

“All eyes of this nation will be on Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Monday July 15, when a new judge takes up the latest challenge to the Republican-backed Voter ID law in the Keystone State. That Pennsylvania’s voter ID statute is an obscene cancer, infecting the very concept of democracy in the birthplace of American democracy, has been demonstrated time and time again through extensive court testimony last summer.

“Eight Pennsylvania counties don’t even have one PennDOT center where these so-called ID’s are supposed to be distributed, and only seven other counties have more than two PennDOT centers,” Mondesire continued. “So from the very outset, it was clear the voter ID concept was flawed in its design and grossly inadequate in its delivery, sure to result in a destructive impact that the NAACP has maintained from the very beginning.

“Voter ID laws will be resisted by the NAACP wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads. We will be there until the end.”


Contact staff writer Damon C. Williams at 215-893-5745 or

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