Barring an unforeseen deviation from historic patterns, voter turnout for the Nov. 5 general election will be low – very low.
In an odd-numbered year, without a presidential contest on the marquee, or even gubernatorial or congressional races, workers at the polls will undoubtedly have time on their hands to read books or magazines, chat with one another, send text messages or gaze longingly at the chocolate chip cookies or brownies that sometimes happily end up next to the “I Voted” lapel stickers.
One thing they won’t be able to do to fill the empty minutes is enforce Pennsylvania’s misbegotten voter-identification law. On Friday, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ordered that voters can be asked to show identification at the polls a little over two months from now, but if they don’t have the necessary form of ID, it won’t prevent voters from casting a ballot. In addition, poll workers can distribute written material to voters on the law, but they won’t be able to say that identification will be required in future elections, since the state Supreme Court is considering whether the law is constitutional.
“There is no value in inaccurate information, and the court does not deem inaccurate information ‘educational,’” McGinley wisely pointed out. “It is not a matter of confusion – it is a matter of accuracy.”
It will be the third consecutive election in which the law is not being enforced, following the 2012 general election and the primary contests in May. As we have noted on this page before, we hope the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns this law. Though its supporters claim voter fraud is rife in the land (this “fraud” was mysteriously absent when their preferred candidates were winning), there is no evidence to support their claims.
The number of fraud cases that have ever merited investigation is infinitesimal – not enough to sway any election anywhere. Voter ID laws, which have been instituted in other states in the last few years, have never been about stopping “fraud,” though, but placing hurdles in front of those who might vote for Democrats, such as minorities, students and the elderly.
Given how few voters are expected to make their ways to the polls Nov. 5, the state should be making it easier for them to cast a ballot in that election, and all the others that follow.