The judge described the law as a "minor change" to the state Election Code and didn't buy the claim by lawyers for the citizens who sued to block the law that up to a million registered voters lack proper ID. He did accept that 1 percent or more of voters, which adds up to at least 90,000 people, would have to jump through some significant bureaucratic hoops to continue voting. And while it's true that the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians have proper identification, the ones who do not are likely to be poor, minority, older and female.
In his decision, the judge revealed a touching faith in both the Department of State and in an alternative voter ID that is supposed to be introduced in the next few weeks, the third major revision in rules released since the law's passage. He is convinced, he wrote, that the law "will be implemented by Commonwealth agencies in a non-partisan, even-handed manner" - spoken like someone who has not received widely conflicting information from government employees and doesn't face the prospect of talking to machines on the phone and making multiple trips, likely by public transportation, to PennDOT offices.
Voting is such a fundamental right that laws that make it harder to exercise should be subject to what's called "strict scrutiny." Under that highest standard, governments have to provide very strong evidence to justify making it harder to exercise a right - for example, to prevent wide-scale voter-impersonation fraud. But the commonwealth has already admitted that there is no such evidence.
Simpson did not use the "strict scrutiny" standard to judge the voter-ID case. If he had, he wrote, he might have reached a different determination. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court can interpret the law another way - and it should.
At this point, a 3-3 partisan split on the Supreme Court makes it possible that the law will stay in effect: so individuals should check now to make sure that they have the proper ID to vote and, if not, should find out how to go about getting it.
A 145-member nonpartisan Voter ID Coalition has been established to provide information and organize volunteers to help out in what Karen Buck, of the SeniorLAW Center, calls the "voter-ID crisis." There are only 82 days left to navigate what is a complicated, but doable, process.
Visit the Committee of Seventy's website, seventy.org or call 1-800-OURVOTE (1-866-687- 8683) for information.
Act now to preserve your "fundamental right."