Statistical duel in trial on voter ID

HARRISBURG (AP) – A statistician hired by the state Thursday criticized the methodology of another expert who claims that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters lack the photo identification they would need to cast ballots under a pending law.

William Wecker testified Thursday about his review of Philadelphia statistician Bernard Siskin’s report during a Commonwealth Court trial of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the photo ID law on constitutional grounds.

Wecker said Siskin overstated the number of voters without IDs by failing to subtract those who have died, moved out of state or are barred from voting because they are incarcerated felons.

“He’s not ascertained that they’re even alive,” he said.

Wecker, who is based in Wyoming, claimed Siskin’s report also did not adequately reflect voters who have acceptable IDs from non-government sources such as the armed forces, universities or assisted living centers.

On cross-examination, a lawyer for the plaintiffs sought to counter Wecker’s review by focusing on weaknesses in his own approach to assessing the influence of those voter groups.

Washington lawyer Michael Rubin said outside the courtroom that Wecker showed only “a tiny sliver” of voters identified in Siskin’s report who may have other valid ID.

The law was approved in March 2012 by GOP lawmakers who control both houses of the Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. It is one of the nation’s toughest voter ID laws, however, court orders have blocked its enforcement in the face of the pending trial.

Plaintiffs include the NAACP, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and Philadelphia’s Homeless Advocacy Project.

Siskin, whose report is key to the plaintiffs’ case, based his research on a comparison of the state’s voter-registration database with a similar database maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which issues state driver’s licenses and two other ID cards that are acceptable under the law. Wecker had access to that data in his review.

Siskin, who testified for the plaintiffs last week, said his analysis found about 511,000 registered voters who lacked one of the PennDOT-issued IDs or had IDs that will expire before the Nov. 5 general election, but used the most conservative phrase “hundreds of thousands” to describe his estimate of the number.