As we’ve reported on extensively on PoliticsNation, there has been an unprecedented wave of voter suppression laws passed across the country since Republicans took control of many state legislatures in 2010. Fortunately, in the last few weeks and months we have seen many of these laws blocked by the courts, from restrictions on Ohio early voting just this week to Pennsylvania voter ID earlier this month, and South Carolina and Wisconsin voter ID laws too.
All these decisions mean that a voter suppression campaign that could have made it difficult for as many as 5 million people to vote, has been significantly blunted. But a new problem may be emerging thanks to widespread misinformation and intimidation.
The biggest problem today might just be in Pennsylvania, where two weeks after a judge blocked the voter ID law, some voters are still being told ID is required. The city of Philadelphia accidentally sent out inaccurate mailers to 34,000 retired city workers, telling them that they must have ID to vote, when voters can only be asked, but not required, to show ID. The city officials say they’re actively working to correct the error.
Meanwhile, PECO, a major Pennsylvania utility company, has sent newsletters with the same bad information to 1.3 million customers in 7 counties. The company has published corrected information on its website, and customer service line, and a PECO spokesman tells PoliticsNation they are working to mail corrected information to customers as well.
A billboard in Philadelhia still tells Spanish-speaking voters they must show ID, and state-sponsored TV and radio ads throughout the state have only been slightly altered. Anyone who watches the TV ad with the audio off has no way of knowing that pollworkers can ask for ID, but one is not required.
Pennsylvania State Representative Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Philadelphia and a vocal opponent of voter ID since the beginning of the battle, told Rev. Al the situation is “crazy.” Leach said that while some of it seems to be “unfortunate, but benign,” he thinks state officials have demonstrated a “lack of urgency” in making sure voters have accurate information before they head to the polls. A recent report by msnbc.com jibed with that picture.
Pennsylvania is not the only state where there’s confusion, or worse. As we’ve reported, in Wisconsin and Ohio more than 100 billboard ads were posted in predominately minority communities that warn of the legal consequences of committing voter fraud. Many local officials and activists think the billboard ads, purchased by an anonymous private family foundation, are designed to scare not just illegal voters away from the polls, but legitimate ones as well.
With tightening polls in recent weeks, it’s entirely possible that the winning margins in this election will be razor thin, which means that every voter kept away from the polls by confusion or intimidation could have a big impact. That’s why, as Rev. Sharpton says, everyone should get educated and exercise their rights.