PA Voters Faced Multiple Barriers To The Ballot, Shows Research For Presidential Election Commission


September 4, 2013

CONTACT: Cynthia Gordy,, 718-755-4340



As the President’s Commission Heads to Philadelphia, Advancement Project Submits Testimony on the Impact of Photo ID, Language Access, Overuse of Provisional Ballots and More

(Washington) – The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a working group tasked with presenting recommendations to the president on how to improve the voting experience, will hold a public hearing today in Philadelphia. Advancement Project, which has worked in Pennsylvania for 10 years to remove barriers for voters of color, will provide testimony about problems Pennsylvania voters faced in 2012. The civil rights organization also served as co-counsel in a lawsuit that blocked the state’s voter ID law for the 2012 elections, and is currently litigating to have the law permanently stuck down. At the hearing, Advancement Project’s Pennsylvania attorney will be joined by an Upper Darby voter who struggled to vote last year on account of Pennsylvania’s election obstacles.

“On Election Day, the national Election Protection hotline received the second highest number of calls from Pennsylvania at 9,171 – second only to California,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Problems included confusion over photo ID, voters being improperly forced to vote by provisional ballot, difficulties for limited-English proficient voters, and long lines. These issues, which occurred in all parts of the state, illustrate the need for serious election reform in Pennsylvania.”

Highlights in Advancement Project’s testimony for the Presidential Commission include:

  • Despite litigation from Advancement Project and co-counsel that stopped Pennsylvania’s photo ID law from being implemented, many poll workers acted as though the law was in effect. Misinformed poll workers across the state improperly required voters to produce a photo ID, and turned away voters who lacked ID or made them vote by provisional ballot.
  • The problems of names missing from the voter rolls, and the improper enforcement of photo ID requirements, contributed to a 48.15 percent increase in provisional ballots cast on Election Day. In Philadelphia alone, more than 27,000 provisional ballots were cast, including by more than 14,000 validly registered voters who were, in fact, listed in the poll books. More than 5,000 registered Philadelphia voters were not listed in the poll books at their polling place but, according to the Department of State, should have been listed in the supplemental poll books.
  • Pennsylvania voters who do not speak English as their primary language faced particular difficulties. In Philadelphia and Hazelton, Luzerne County, Spanish-speaking voters encountered a lack of interpreters to provide assistance and were denied their right to have an assistor of their choice interpret the ballot for them.
  • To address recurring election problems, Advancement Project urged the Commission to prohibit restrictive photo ID laws, implement early voting, allow for same-day voter registration and online registration, and provide language access to limited-English communities.

Advancement Project will give testimony alongside Mickia Moore, an African-American Upper Darby voter who spent all of Election Day trying to vote. When a poll worker demanded to see photo ID, Moore showed her driver’s license but, because her signature image in the poll book was much smaller than her normal signature, the poll worker declared that they did not match. After showing two other pieces of ID, both with her signature and address, the Judge of Elections still refused to let her vote a regular ballot, setting off a series of additional steps taken throughout the day to prove her identity. It wasn’t until Moore called 6ABC Action News and taped a story that she was finally allowed to vote.

“Instead of squandering precious resources on measures such as photo ID, which do not solve the very real problems faced by voters, the Commonwealth could redirect such resources into providing counties with the tools they need to make elections free, fair and accessible,” said Advancement Project attorney Marian Schneider, who is litigating in the challenge to Pennsylvania’s photo ID law.

Advancement Project’s submission for the Commission can be viewed here: