But as the state Supreme Court takes up the appeal of the voter-ID case on Thursday, it should listen to the words of a civil-rights icon, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who risked his life to secure voting rights in the South in the 1960s. Lewis sees a direct line from those days to the voter-ID laws of today.
"They are changing the rules . . . and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote," Lewis told the Democratic National Convention last week. "That's not right. That's not fair and that is not just."
What Judge Simpson didn't see, and which the state Supreme Court should rule, is that voting is a "fundamental right." Attempts to place a burden on it should be subject to "strict scrutiny." That is, the government must prove that it is acting to fix a compelling and serious problem and that the law won't affect rights any more than is necessary. Pennsylvania has already admitted that there is no problem of voter impersonation in the state.
The high court must decide if the voter-ID law violates the state Constitution, which includes stronger protections for voting than the U.S. Constitution. Around the country, though, laws that are less strict than Pennsylvania's have been blocked by federal courts.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a federal three-judge panel ruled that a similar voter-ID law in Texas discriminates against poor and minority voters. In a "friend of the court" brief filed against the Pennsylvania law, a group of law professors argued that federal courts already have struck down less stringent laws in three other states, Missouri, Georgia and Wisconsin.
As of Friday, PennDOT had issued only 7,226 IDs for voting purposes. Only 472 people had gotten the special voter IDs that the Department of State began providing a few weeks ago. So much for confidence that people who need IDs will be able to get them in time.
The Supreme Court should block the law, at least for the November election. But don't count on that happening. If you don't have the proper ID, make every effort to get it. For information and help, visit the Committee of Seventy's Web site, seventy.org or call 1-800-OURVOTE (1-866- 687- 8683).
"Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote," said John Lewis. "We must march to the polls like never, ever before."