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"We know who you are by the company you keep." That's what the nuns used to tell us, and you know, I think they had a point. Pennsylvania's Corbett administration has signed a quarter-million dollar contract with a company run by a Romney fundraiser and former state GOP executive to run a media campaign touting the state's new voter ID law. Via the Philadelphia City Paper, the nasty details:
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has signed a $249,660 contract with a company run byMitt Romney fundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct a media campaign promoting the state's Voter ID law.
Yes, that very same law, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, which critics contend will suppress Democratic-leaning non-white, poor, elderly and youth voters and which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently boasted (video) is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”One sample PSA on the Bravo Group's Vimeo page portrays voter ID as just the latest installment in a bright history of American voting rights, and features anodyne black and white photos―including one of suffragettes. Another spot portrays a lot of shiny-toothed middle class models holding ID cards. [note: Bravo removed the two videos this morning but Occupy Harrisburg has reposted them here andhere.]The tagline? "Your right to vote: it's one thing you never want to miss out on.”
What the ads don't mention is that a whole lot of Pennsylvanians might just miss out on exercising that core democratic right.
An astounding 758,939 registered voters in the state, or nine percent, do not have PennDot IDs, according to data released last Tuesday by the Department of State. In Philadelphia, it's even worse: 186,830 registered voters, or 18 percent, do not have ID. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele had previously assured lawmakers that 99 percent of Pennsylvanians possess the necessary ID―based on what, I have absolutely no idea.
The state released this astonishing data on July 3 in what seems like a transparent effort to ensure that the bomb-like news would drop like a dud on the July 4th holiday. And they did so with the almost-unbelievably-Orwellian title “Department of State and PennDOT Confirm Most Registered Voters Have Photo ID.”
Corbett has rebuffed a call from rights advocates and civic groups to delay voter ID implementation. But a legal challenge presses on. 93-year old Germantown resident Viviette Applewhite, who has been unable to obtain a Pennsylvania birth certificate, is the lead plaintiff in the ACLU and NAACP lawsuit. Other plaintiffs include “three elderly women who say they cannot obtain necessary ID because they were born in the Jim Crow South, where states have no records of their births.”
A Commonwealth Court hearing in a case to decide whether the law is indeed tantamount to the reimposition of Jim Crow voter suppression tactics is scheduled for July 25 in Harrisburg.
The Department of State approved the $249,660 contract with the Bravo Group on June 25, according to public documents collected by the Cost of Freedom Project and sent to City Paper. The Bravo Group is run by Mitt Romney fundraiser Chris Bravacos, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist who also operates theBravo Foundation, which funnels donations to private schools in a voucher-like program for corporations looking for a legalized taxpayer kickback (see this New York Times report). What's worse? The contract appears to be funded by federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) dollars, which was passed to ensure that the chaos of the 2000 presidential elections (you know, when all those votes weren't counted) is not repeated. HAVA, like any federal program, also requires states to comply Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which stipulates that "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
"It's outrageous that Pennsylvania is using money appropriated by Congress to help Americans vote to hire a lobbying firm, founded by a former executive director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party and Mitt Romney fundraiser to develop the 'community outreach and public relations portion of the 2012 general election voter education media campaign,'" said an incredulous Cost of Freedom leader Faye Anderson. "Are we really to believe that a Republican operative will draft a plan that will empower the very voters targeted by the GOP's voter suppression by voter ID scheme?"