Voter ID law should be overturned

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We’d better prepare for an invasion by extraterrestrials.


There’s no evidence whatsoever that little green men are about to land their spacecraft and colonize us, but who knows – it might happen in the future.


The same rationale has been offered up by proponents of the voter-identification laws that have been instituted in Pennsylvania and other states. There’s not a scintilla of evidence that voter fraud is happening on a widespread basis, or even an extremely limited one, anywhere in the country. But, who knows – it might happen in the future.


Suspended just before voters went to the polls last November by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over concerns that there wouldn’t be enough time for voters to get proper ID, the law is back before a judge; this time, it’s a trial that’s expected to last two weeks in Commonwealth Court on whether it should be upheld, continue to be held in abeyance or overturned entirely. We have argued previously that the law is unfair and a blatant, ruthless attempt to disenfranchise whole groups of voters, and we hope that Commonwealth Court agrees and overturns it.


It’s useful to consider the provenance of voter ID laws. Most sprang from the dark warrens of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing, Tea Party-friendly organization, which pumps out “model,” fill-in-the-blanks legislation that can be adopted by lawmakers in their states and communities. Rather than lowering the occurrence of ballot-box stuffing – which, we repeat, does not appear to be happening anywhere in the United States, except in the fevered imaginations of the far right – ID laws serve the useful purpose of making it harder for groups that might be inclined to pull the lever for Democrats to actually do so, such as students, low-income voters and minorities.


State Rep. Mike Turzai, the leader of House Republicans, let the truth slip last year when he remarked at an event that the voter ID law would “allow Gov. (Mitt) Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”


Former President Bill Clinton explained in 2011 that the reasoning behind voter ID laws was “not rocket science.” Republicans were trying to make the electorate more like the older, whiter one in 2010 that gave the GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives and several state legislatures and governorships, and not the more diverse electorate in 2008 that put Barack Obama in the White House. Clinton continued, “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”


And evidence presented Monday in Harrisburg showed that officials within the Corbett administration were concerned that Pennsylvania’s ID law, which is stricter than similar laws passed in other states, would leave some voters out in the cold. Corbett and his allies apparently waved off those worries. “They could have made it easier for people to vote and still reach their goal and chose not to,” said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause PA.


Supporters of voter ID laws say they are interested in protecting the integrity of the democratic process. That’s very high-minded. But the fretting over voter fraud was conspicuously absent when Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were winning the presidency in landslides in the 1970s and 1980s. Wouldn’t it be novel if they showed this much distress over climate change, for which there is concrete, reliable evidence?


Rather than placing hurdles in front of voters, supporters of ID laws should be concentrating instead on trying to win them over with the power of their ideas.


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