Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Lives, Judge Refuses to Block It

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson says he will not halt Pennsylvania’s voter ID law. Everyone else is calling the law “tough” but I call it “discriminatory,” and it matters little to me what one particular judge has ruled because I know what’s right and what’s wrong. It turns out that the reason Republicans stated we needed this law played little role in the judge’s decision.

Simpson, a Republican, didn’t rule on the full merits of the case, only whether to grant a preliminary injunction stopping it from taking effect.

In his 70-page opinion, Simpson said the plaintiffs “did an excellent job of `putting a face’ to those burdened by the voter ID requirement,” but he said he didn’t have the luxury of deciding the case based on sympathy. Rather, he said he believed that state officials and agencies were actively resolving problems with the law and that they would carry it out in a “nonpartisan, even-handed manner.”

The law, he said, is neutral, nondiscriminatory and applies uniformly to all voters. Speculation about the potential problems in issuing valid photo IDs or confusion on Election Day did not warrant “invalidation of all lawful applications” of it, he wrote. – The Huffington Post

Why did the state’s lack of voter fraud evidence not impact this case? I do understand that it is the effect of a law that is ruled on, not the intent, but on both counts the state is wrong. The law was enacted to suppress the minority vote, which is likely to vote Democratic. Pennsylvania offered no proof that voter fraud exists. The effect of the law is to make it harder to vote for the poor and disenfranchised. While there are plenty of white conservatives (likely to vote Republican) who are also poor and disenfranchised, the percentage is much greater among minority groups. But Judge Simpson believes it makes more sense to have “officials and agencies” resolving problems with the voter ID law as they arise instead of blocking the law and ensuring equal access to the polls.

We should all take voting rights seriously. Even a whiff of discrimination in a voting law should be enough to invalid it. In this case, the law’s purpose was clearly tenuous at best given the state’s inability to produce evidence of voter fraud. That should be enough cause for concern to block the law from going into effect this November.

The plaintiffs in the case plan to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Election 2012GovernmentVoter SuppressionVoting Rights

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