Inquirer Editorial: Don't let ID law prevent voting

Chief Justice Ronald Castille
Chief Justice Ronald Castille
Posted: August 20, 2012

Don't let Pennsylvania's restrictive voter-ID law, upheld in Commonwealth Court last week, keep minorities, the poor, and the elderly from voting.

Now is the time to make sure voters have proper photo IDs and the underlying documentation to get them.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ignored evidence that the state is unprepared to ensure that every registered voter has proper photo ID. But hundreds of thousands may be disenfranchised.

And even though the case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court, there is no way to know what the justices will decide. The court is evenly split between three Republicans and three Democrats, raising the possibility of a deadlock on this politically charged issue. A deadlock means the flawed Simpson decision stands. There is hope that Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille could again show an ability to break with partisanship as he did when he broke the tie earlier this year and threw out the Republicans' gerrymandered redistricting map. But will he apply that same sense of fairness to stop this terrible law from being implemented?

Though Simpson and certainly Gov. Corbett and his Republican legislature have struck a blow against voting rights, they don't have to have their way. The legislature passed this law, as did Republican legislatures in nine other states, saying they were stopping voter fraud. However, photo-ID laws will make voting more difficult for minorities, the elderly, and the poor.

GOP House Majority Leader Mike Turzai affirmed this proudly when he said the law would "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

Voting rights advocates should be encouraged by what happened in Indiana and Georgia after they passed voter ID. In 2008, the first elections under their respective laws, voter registration and turnout increased. The people targeted expressed their commitment by showing up in force at the ballot box.

Turnout, of course, was aided by state Democratic parties and President Obama's campaign. That race in the peak of the recession broke voting records across the country. This one may not be quite as historic, which adds pressure to kick up participation.

The nonpartisan Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, organized by the Committee of Seventy, is a focus for dozens of religious, labor, civic, cultural, educational, and other groups. They're getting the word out through their networks and helping voters obtain birth certificates so they can acquire voter IDs and provide help for other problems. They can be reached at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

The best way to beat back a tyrannical act like voter ID is to show what a fight for voting rights looks like by helping as many citizens as possible get ready to cast ballots on Nov. 6.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|