A Pennsylvania judge has rejected claims that the state?s controversial voter-ID law disenfranchises poor, urban voters. As a result, the state?s 8.2 million registered voters will be required to present a state-approved voter ID when they head to the polls on November 6. [...] The ruling makes Pennsylvania the 30th state to enforce voter ID laws, up from 24 states in the last election. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is continuing its review of the law and whether it violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The case is most likely headed to the Supreme Court. – Audio Interview with Election Law Expert Richard Hasen
A REPUBLICAN-BACKED law in Pennsylvania that is meant to depress the vote and disenfranchise people in order for Mitt Romney to have a chance of winning the state in November was upheld on Wednesday. I write it that way, because it is the truth. The only reason to suddenly make people provide a government issued voter I.D. to vote in a state where no voter fraud has appeared, with no proof offered during the case that it’s a worry, is to disenfranchise voters and suppress the vote. That this law would dramatically affect poor voters and people of color is obvious, but it also impacts the elderly and the infirm as well. If someone is in their 80s or 90s, or perhaps never had a driver’s license because they are too poor to have a car, this year that person will have to get one or not be able to vote.
Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state now that it wasn’t before, because even though Republicans always hope to win it in presidential election years they never do. There is no other reason for Republicans to contort the legislative process so thoroughly other than it benefits them, with this new voter I.D. law now tilting the state in Mitt Romney’s favor.
The New York Times editorial states the problem plainly.
There is no evidence that Judge Simpson contorted law and precedent to reach his conclusion. He even described Mr. Turzai?s comment as ?disturbing? and ?tendentious.? But his ruling, in a case brought by potentially disenfranchised voters, is a clear and disturbing illustration of the way Republicans have manipulated legislation for their own ends, placing a veneer of civic responsibility on a low-minded and sleazy political ploy.
The real reasons for voter ID laws are quite clear. The desire to dampen the Democratic vote after 2006 ? and particularly in the wake of President Obama?s election ? prompted six states to decide, virtually simultaneously, to pass voter ID laws. Their stated reason ? combating voter fraud ? is easily dismissed because there are virtually no documented cases of impersonation fraud that could be reduced with an ID card. Mr. Turzai was simply indiscreet; most Republicans know better than to speak the truth out loud.
Judge Simpson acknowledged, as did the state in the lawsuit, that there have been no prosecutions or even investigations of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. He said there wasn?t any evidence of that in Indiana, either, yet the United States Supreme Court upheld a nearly identical ID law there in 2008, so he was obliged to do the same.
Appeals will be filed today.
Then the issue gets even stickier. From Philly.com:
A quirk of timing on the state Supreme Court could add another subplot.
With Justice Joan Orie Melvin suspended, the court has just six members, an even split of Democrats and Republicans. Party affiliation might be deemed irrelevant in many cases they hear, but politics are baked deeply into this one.
Republicans pushed the law through the legislature with a party-line vote, and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) famously declared that the law would help GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney win the state. Democrats pounced on that, contending it proved the law was concocted for political reasons.
If the high court splits 3-3 on the issue, Simpson’s ruling would remain intact. For the Supreme Court to settle the case, one justice would have to buck his or her party.
Observers are particularly focused on the role Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, could play.
Castille irked some Republicans when he delivered the majority opinion this year that threw out a plan by GOP lawmakers to redraw Pennsylvania’s legislative map. His role in the voter ID case could burnish his party bona fides or burn them.