Time to trash voter-ID law

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer says thousands lack IDs.
City Commissioner Stephanie Singer says thousands lack IDs.
Posted: July 30, 2012

Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court should throw out the state's specious voter-ID law, or at least issue an injunction that recognizes there's no way that the state can provide the required credentials for hundreds of thousands of voters in time for the Nov. 6 election.

That temporary step might buy the Corbett administration time, but it would in no way mitigate the obvious: that the ID law is nothing less than a political dirty trick aimed at tilting the playing field in favor of one party over another.

The state has admitted it can't cite a single case of the type of voter impersonation that it says makes the law necessary, despite a five-year U.S. Justice Department investigation directed toward that purpose. Not one case! Yet Pennsylvania still presses ahead on this dangerous course.

The execution of the law has been farcical. Eligibility requirements for required photo IDs have changed more than once, and there is no reason to believe they won't change again.

The American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups have sued to overturn the law. On a separate track, the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is probing how Gov. Corbett can claim 99 percent of state voters already have the photo IDs they need to vote.

The state's own comparison of its voter database and the Department of Transportation's list of those with driver's licenses and nondriver IDs, the most acceptable forms of identification, shows that 9.2 percent of the state's 8.3 million registered voters don't have the right kind of ID.

Once completed, the civil rights probe will reveal the truth, which is that Pennsylvania's sham voter-ID law is a ploy to discourage urban, elderly, minority, and poor voters, who typically support Democrats, from voting in the 2012 presidential race.

Consider the morass created by the Department of State's latest pretense to accommodate voters who may be too old or too poor to have a PennDot card or the underlying documentation needed to get one, such as a birth certificate.

That vulnerable group includes people who weren't born in a hospital, or were born in Puerto Rico, which invalidated birth certificates issued prior to 2010 to combat illegal immigration.

On the eve of the trial that began Thursday, the state said it would issue voter IDs to all those who go to a PennDot office armed with a Social Security number and two proofs of residency, such as a utility bill or a lease.

But even with those reduced requirements, Philadelphia City Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer's office estimates the state would have to churn out 15,000 voter IDs a day to meet the need. Even the most efficient bureaucracy would have trouble doing that.

Still unknown is how many voters are unaware of the new ID law's requirements, or how many living in rural areas can't easily get to a PennDot office.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a voter-ID law in Indiana in 2008, after advocates failed to prove voter hardship. But in Pennsylvania, the state's own data and bureaucratic fumbling are ample evidence that this law, if it is carried out, will deny thousands of citizens their voting rights. The court can't allow that to happen.

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