Voter ID: How did we get here? Part III
Things were looking up for Republicans in the early summer. They got the candidate they wanted (i.e., the one they thought could actually win) in Mitt Romney. That candidate, being who he was and where he was from, could have contended for states like Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania—and maybe Wisconsin and Michigan, too.
And not just because he was the former governor of Massachusetts, or that his father had been the governor of Michigan. But because many of those so-called-swing states had been passing Voter ID laws with a passive aggressive wink toward the national GOP, knowing the people negatively affected by the law wouldn’t be their own. And maybe—just maybe—it’d give them a chance to do something they hadn’t done in decades: Win Pennsylvania, and other states like it.
For the most part, Republicans kept to the script. This law was all about fighting ‘corruption’ and cracking down on scofflaws who wait all year to impersonate someone else at the voting booth.
The script apparently never made it to Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s inbox. Because during a meeting of Republican officials and guests in late June, the Pennsylvania legislator told a crowd that Voter ID would help Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania.
And he did it in hilarious fashion.
“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,” he said.
That didn’t go over so well, since the cat was now officially out of the bag. Turzai’s face would spend days exactly where no Republican wants it: MSNBC.
And instead of take responsibility for his actions, admitting the mistake, Turzai’s spokesperson took the statement a step farther, implying that voter ID was necessary to keep Democrats from cheating to win all the time—which is par for the course, apparently!
“Rep. Turzai was speaking at a partisan political event. He was simply referencing, for the first time in a long while, the Republican presidential candidate will be on a more even keel thanks to Voter ID,” said Stephen Miskin, Turzai’s spokesman. “Anyone looking further into it has their own agenda.”
Those with their own agenda quickly became, well, basically everyone.
Especially Pennsylvania Democrats, who had a field day with Turzai’s gaffe.
One June 26, 2012, State Sen. Daylin Leach and others held a press conference noting the somewhat offensive explanation for Turzai’s offensive remarks does “not pass the laugh test.” He continued: “If you have to stop people voting to win elections, your ideas suck.”
By then, the ACLU of Pennsylvania had been pursuing their lawsuit against the state, with several plaintiffs joining, including Viviette Applewhite, an elderly Germantown resident who, due to the law, would not be able to vote in November.
And, as studies and figures began to show, she wasn’t the only one. Journalists and advocacy groups began going through the voter registration roles and PennDOT data, to find a higher number than anyone thought might be turned away at the polls in November. Corbett’s initial statement that the law wouldn’t block anyone from voting? That sounds about right, said no one, ever.
When the Inquirer compared the voter registration roles with PennDOT details, they found about 758,000 Pennsylvanians—or, 9.2 percent of the state—did not have valid ID to vote.
The Corbett Administration had originally said 1 percent. Later looks at the numbers—disputed by the Department of State—would show even more residents could be disenfranchised by the law. Done!
Amongst those releasing equally devastating Pennsylvania Voter ID picture: The Brennan Center, Philly Inquirer (again), the ACLU and the AFL-CIO.
To make matters worse, polls showed a large portion of residents weren’t even aware of the law’s existence! Not until, at least, the state would begin its advertisements making deference to the law out to be in line with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and others which showed smiling, happy people holding their shining, happy IDs.
Then the U.S. Justice Department got involved. They sent a letter to acting secretary of state Carol Aichele to make sure the state’s law was in compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. And they sent it just in time for the Voter ID case that was being brought up in Court.
Said letter asked for a complete registration list with lots and lots of information, drivers licenses, evidence that voters can obtain an ID card at no cost, and documentation the state had informed the public of the law.
This was significant. The Justice Department had already blocked similar laws in states just a bit more backwards than Pennsylvania: Texas and South Carolina, both of which were subject to stricter standards of the Voting Rights Act due to their southiness.
The pressure was on. Then the trial began.
Tomorrow: Americans have the right to a “speedy” trial. It was not invoked.
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