voter ID laws
A Pennsylvania judge ruled Wednesday that a new Republican-supported state voter ID law could be implemented for Election Day, despite objections that it was a partisan attempt to hurt President Obama and could cost thousands of voters the right to cast ballots.
Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson said the individuals and civil rights groups challenging the law had not met the heavy burden of proving that it so clearly violated the state constitution that it should not be implemented. He said there was still time for those without proper ID to acquire it.
“Petitioners did not establish . . . that disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable,” Simpson wrote, adding, “I was convinced that Act 18 will be implemented by Commonwealth agencies in a nonpartisan, evenhanded manner.”
The detailed, 70-page opinion by Simpson, a veteran of the bench who is a Republican, makes it much more likely that Pennsylvania voters will now be required to show specific forms of photo ID. It is one of many new restrictive voting laws across the country — in almost all cases, sponsored by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.
Earlier this year, my state of Pennsylvania joined many other states in passing a strict new voter ID law. Proponents of such laws claim they are merely to ensure voters are who they say they are, and to prevent voter fraud. This claim has always been a bit questionable. Voter fraud has never been shown to be that widespread.
Several months ago, I wrote here about my dilemma regarding voter ID laws in general. At the time I was severely torn as I felt that both sides were making dishonest arguments. However, in the ensuing months I have been following the Pennsylvania law to some degree. While it does not affect me personally as I have multiple forms of ID, I’m well aware that the areas that will be most affected will be heavily urban, Democratic-leaning counties like Philadelphia and Allegheny (where Pittsburgh is located).
Now a report is out showing that over 750,000 people in the Commonwealth could be ineligible to vote in November. According to the report, as many as 18% of Philadelphia residents may lack valid ID. The actual numbers are likely lower because some of these voters may have non-PennDOT ID’s that qualify. But either way, there are a lot of voters who otherwise could vote that now can’t.