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In Pennsylvania, the Rosa Parks of voter ID faces down GOP voter suppression

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The difficulties, delays, and expenses that Ms. Applewhite and the other parties to her suit have experienced are documented in the lengthy brief submitted to the court. According to state election officials, 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have a photo ID from the state's department of transportation.

Applewhite, who lacks a driver’s license but has consistently voted since the 1960s, has, for example, made three tries to get her birth certificate from Pennsylvania’s Division of Public Records. At the time the suit bearing her name was filed, she still did not have her birth certificate, despite paying the required fee.

If Applewhite v. Pennsylvania fails to set a limit – and a precedent – for how far a state can go in requiring voters to identify themselves, there’s no end in sight to the Republican drive for more voter ID laws, a highly successful campaign so far.

Republicans say these laws are necessary to combat voter fraud, but it’s hard to interpret them as anything other than an attempt to suppress voter turnout, especially among minorities and the poor, two groups most often lacking driver’s licenses. Since the beginning of 2011, eight states have passed voter photo ID laws, though some are not yet in effect. More such legislation is on its way.

In the case of Pennsylvania, Republicans have no doubt which party the new voter ID law will benefit. Their state House majority leader has already made headlines by telling a meeting of the Republican State Committee: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Critics of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Indiana case point out how, in Indiana and in states across the country, there is very little evidence of personal voter fraud, and they are right. Indeed, the court’s majority opinion found “no evidence” of the type of fraud that the Indiana law was supposed to protect against.

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