The state spent two-thirds of the money it was supposed to invest in encouraging voter participation by trying to explain how to avoid a Republican-backed voter suppression plan.
The Pennsylvania Department of State received $5 million in federal funds through the Help America Vote Act. That money was for media advertising, mailings and phone calls for voter education and outreach during a federal election year.
Pennsylvania used $2 million for an advertising campaign to air statewide on about 20 network TV affiliates across the commonwealth, dozens of radio stations and on billboards, buses and websites. The Department of State used about $1.5 million on postcards sent to the homes of registered voters advising them about the ID law before the ruling.
State officials insist that the money was not completely wasted because eventually the voter identification rules will take effect. It would certainly harm no one if voters arrive fully armed with identification. Those who come to the election will be reminded that in the future, they will be required to show ID.
Having elections staff issue polite reminders to voters about the changing rules would have been sufficient and saved $3.5 million.
It was a waste of taxpayer money spent trying to support the blatantly fraudulent notion that voter impersonation was a problem.
It was an attempted abuse of power by Republicans who sought to use control of the Legislature to tamper with the voting process during what was expected to be a close presidential election.
Almost every political candidate agrees on one goal: Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse from government.
The voter identification fiasco involved all three.
Eighty-five percent of Republicans support the law, while only 51 percent of Democrats support the new rules. Only 31 percent of black voters support voter ID. The dissonance relates to different perspectives about what the legislation would accomplish. Minorities are all too familiar with the ugly memories of racist poll taxes and other steps intended to keep them from participating in democracy. Republicans fret that inner city machine politics contribute to Election Day fraud.
Pennsylvania can roll out voter ID rules while assuaging fears about voter suppression, but the Republican rush to roll out the new rules forced the state to misspend $3.5 million while confusing voters and prompting 12,602 Pennsylvanians to go to the trouble of obtaining new identification they do not immediately need.