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Union says more than 35,000 voters disenfranchised in November

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Just as the trial over Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law is nearing its end, the state AFL-CIO released a study saying more than 35,000 voters were disenfranchised in November’s election because of the law.

The law was passed early last year but has yet to be enforced in the midst of ongoing legal challenges.

The head of the union says confusion over the law and what kind of ID would be needed resulted in thousands of voters staying home.

“Democracy should be about encouraging everybody to vote, and let’s debate our ideas and may the best ideas win, not trying to keep people from coming out to vote,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL/CIO.

The study can be viewed here.

Bloomingdale said the idea for the study came after an interview Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason did with PCN. He was asked about the voter ID law and whether he thought it had an impact on the November election.

“Yeah, I think a little bit. We probably had a better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by 5 percent,” said Gleason. “He beat McCain by 10 percent. He only beat Romney by 5 percent. I think that probably voter ID helped a bit in that.”

The AFL/CIO looked at the roughly 758,000 voters the state identified as potentially not having an acceptable ID. The union narrowed that down to the 619,000 voters for whom they could gather enough demographic information and be able to determine their likelihood of voting.

The number of votes cast among that group was compared to the voters whom the state identified as having acceptable ID.

The union found voter turnout was lower among those whose “ID status” was in question. The union estimates between 35,239 and 36,613 voters were disenfranchised as a result.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Pa. Office of General Counsel, criticized the study as guesswork on the part of the union. When asked if he had an on-the-record statement he said, “It doesn’t even rise to the issue of a statement. We’re focused on what’s going on in court, not press releases from other organizations.”

The voter ID trial is expected to continue Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania ACLU said it could wrap up on Wednesday.