In March, Pennsylvania became the first state in 2012 to enact a voter ID law. It could have a disastrous impact on the 700,000 Pennsylvanians who currently lack photo ID, but it also harm those who still need an ID to vote but object to having their picture taken for religious reasons, like the Amish and Mennonite communities. They can use a nonphoto ID to vote, but only after completing an interrogation about their faith, according to the Associated Press:
The first item on PennDOT’s form asks applicants to “describe your religion.” It is followed by more questions that devout followers might struggle to answer, and some that inquire about the lives of family members.
How many members are there of your religion?
How many congregations?
What’s the process by which you came to the religion?
What religious practices do you observe?
Do other family members hold the same religious beliefs?
Submitting that form, once notarized, is not enough. Applicants must fill out another form.
If they lack proof of identification, yet another form must be completed before a nonphoto ID is issued. The ID is valid for four years, and the renewal process is simpler.
Going through this process is essential if those who hold religious objections to being photographed want to vote. Anyone who wants to vote must show identification in the November election.
Now, even state senators who supported the voter ID law are concerned about the extensive questionnaire that people who object to being photographed because of their faith must answer. State Sen. Mike Folmer (R) said it seems intrusive and questioned why that much information is needed. “They are going to be keeping them from the polls, keeping American citizens from the polls,” he said. “That’s what I’m concerned about.”
While many Amish and Mennonite people do not vote, those who do vote tend to vote for Republicans. But Republicans have led the charge across the U.S. to enact voter ID laws in an effort to disenfranchise groups of voters like groups, such as college students, low-income voters, and minorities. PennDOT reports that it has issued about 4,000 nonphoto IDs to Amish people, but there are about 61,000 Amish who live in the state. And it is doubtful more Amish will want to go through the arduous process to get a nonphoto ID simply to vote.
Ironically, this new hurdle to Amish voters was erected while many Republicans also insist that the Obama Administration is attacking religious freedom through new federal regulations that require employer-provided health insurance plans to cover contraception. It’s difficult to square the GOP’s claims about religious liberty with the impact of voter ID on specific faiths. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law requires certain people of faith to take additional steps simply to exercise their constitutional right to vote.