On Wednesday, Philadelphia unceremoniously found itself in the middle of one of the nastier fights in the country right now: that over whether states should require photo ID at polling places and whether such laws, invariably pushed by Republicans, serve their purported purpose ― to stamp out “voter fraud” ― or a far less noble purpose of suppressing likely Democratic votes.
That question got stickier on Wednesday, when Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt (Philadelphia elections are overseen by three independently-elected City Commissioners; Schmidt is the sole Republican) released a report alleging hundreds of cases of voting “irregularities” and “fraud.” the response from Pennsylvania Republicans was quick and unsurprising:
The report “finally confirms what leading Democrat opponents of voter photo ID and those in the mainstream media have been denying all along,” wrote State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, Majority Chairman of the House State Government Committee, and a powerful conservative force in Harrisburg.
“Philadelphia is without question one of our nation’s most infested epicenters for rampant election fraud and corruption.” Schmidt’s findings “add to the ever-growing collection of indisputable evidence proving that requiring the display of valid voter photo ID at the ballot box is essential to deterring election fraud,” he contintued, adding, rather ominously, that “we must develop additional solutions that go beyond voter photo ID to stamp out corrupting influences.”
Metcalfe’s point was clear: he, and his Republican cohorts in the state legislature, had been right to pass this spring a new law, of which Metcalfe was the primary sponsor, requiring photo identification to vote in Pennsylvania elections ― and Schmidt’s report was proof of that.
The only problem with that is that Schmidt’s report — while containing legitimate and potentially serious findings of voting problems in Philadelphia — confirms virtually nothing in Metcalfe’s triumphant statement. And while the report did point to troubling instances of what might be incompetence or corruption by poll workers, the report contains precious little relating to the only problem that voter ID requirements are supposed to solve ― that of voter impersonation ― citing a single case that had been documented prior to Schmidt’s investigation.