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Judge Blocks Pennsylvania Voter Suppression Law

more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Wednesday, October, 3rd, 2012, 7:29 am

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In this long year of battling for voters rights, there was good news for democracy yesterday in Pennsylvania – and for Democrats in a state polls show to favor President Obama. A state worth 20 valuable electoral votes.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican, ruled on Tuesday that ALEC’s new voter ID law cannot be enforced this presidential election. Election Day is just five weeks away.

It will be remembered that Simpson originally upheld the law this summer, but now he says that the state has failed to make progress in providing photo IDs to those who need them, resulting in disenfranchisement.

I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time. For this reason, I accept the Petitioners’ argument that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed. I reject Respondents’ argument that my initial estimate was overblown.

Consequently, I am not still convinced in my predictive judgment that there will be no voter  disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election. Under these circumstances, I am obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.

So yes, they may ask voters for their photo ID in Pennsylvania, but they cannot keep them from voting if they don’t have one.

Ballot-stuffing Republican claims that voter fraud is the issue were shredded by one of those familiar video moments where Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, was caught on camera bragging in June, “Voter ID – which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”

Turzai seemed to take Robert’s decision in stride, saying: “[The] decision by the Commonwealth Court upholds Act 18, and voter identification, and that is good.” Maybe he now realizes that even Republican voter fraud and suppression of the Democratic vote can’t save the error-prone Romney?

There is bad news along with the good. The full voter ID law may roll out next year and begin the process of suppressing non-Republican votes.

There are currently 31 states with voter ID laws. Only four of them require photo IDs (no exceptions) to cast a ballot: Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and Indiana. Six states, Idaho, South Dakota, Michican, Louisiana, Florida, and New Hampshire, require photo ID (some exceptions). Pennsylvania and four other states have photo ID laws currently pending. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional in March.

It is not known at this point if Pennsylvania will appeal the ruling; the state says they have not yet decided. But the Washington Post observes that “a joint statement from Corbett and his secretary of state made it sound as if they were preparing to give up the fight to use the law in the coming election.”

In that statement, Corbett said, “We are pleased with Judge Simpson’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the voter ID law. While we believe we have made it possible for every registered voter who needs voter identification to obtain one, we’ll continue our efforts for the next election and all future elections, to make sure every registered voter has the proper identification in an effort to preserve the integrity of our voting process in Pennsylvania.”

Secretary of State Carol Aichele (who, as Adalia Woodbury reported here in July didn’t even know what was in the bill) said,

The streamlined process put in place by the Corbett Administration to help all voters get IDs would have allowed all voters to have acceptable ID by November. However, the judge has concerns about this, and thus the same procedure will be in effect for this election as for the spring primary, in that voters will be requested to show ID, but ID will not be required to vote.

We will continue our education and outreach efforts, as directed by the judge in his order, to let Pennsylvanians know the voter ID law is still on track to be fully implemented for future elections, and we urge all registered voters to make sure they have acceptable ID.

This law is designed to preserve the integrity of every vote by doing what we can to make sure each voter is who they claim to be at the polls, and we are confident this law will be fully implemented in future elections.

The Tea Party’s response, of course, is to threaten its usual Communist party-style purge of those responsible.  The Independence Hall Tea Party Political Action Committee warned that if Corbett failed to appeal the ruling, he would answer for his decision in 2014.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, of Butler County, the sponsor of the bill, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, “denounced Simpson, a Republican, as a ‘judicial activist’ who overstepped his authority in a ruling ‘skewed in favor of the lazy’ without identification.

Rest assured, in the meantime, Republicans will continue to stuff the ballot box themselves.

Judge Blocks Pennsylvania Voter Suppression Law was written by Hrafnkell Haraldsson for PoliticusUSA.
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