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Widespread disenfranchising in Pennsylvania

About a week ago, Republican Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader, made a startling confession.

About a week ago, Republican Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader, made a startling confession. Boasting about the state's new voter-ID law, which was ostensibly about the integrity of the electoral process, Turzai bragged that the law "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

The surprising candor helped reinforce what Democrats have argued all along: these laws are about disenfranchising voters Republicans don't like. The right usually maintains the trumped up "voter fraud" pretense, but once in a great while, a GOP official will slip and tell the truth.

And the truth, at least in the Keystone State, is that Republicans are prepared to block a huge chunk of the voting-age population from participating in their own democracy.

Nearly 10 percent of Pennsylvania's registered voters do not have photo identification cards from the state transportation department and could be ineligible to vote in November under the state's new Republican-backed voter ID law.The Pennsylvania Department of State reported Tuesday that more than 758,000 registered voters lack a standard driver's license or a non-driver photo ID. That's 9.2 percent of the state's 8.2 million voters.In Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 6-1, 18 percent of the city's registered voters do not have the state photo ID, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

One of them is a 93-year-old widow by the name of Viviette Applewhite.

Can this change the outcome of the 2012 election? Actually, yes.

Most recent polling shows President Obama with fairly strong leads in Pennsylvania, but I suspect none of the surveys account for the fact that Republican state policymakers just put new, unnecessary barriers 9.2% of Pennsylvania's voters and the ballot box.

The next question, of course, is what the demographic breakdown might be for the 758,000 registered voters in the state who lack photo ID, but if I had to guess, I'd say a very high majority are either poor, students, minorities, or some combination therein. In other words, they're likely Democratic voters -- which is why Republicans approved this law in the first place.