Voter ID: How did we get here? Part V


Part 5: You showed your hand

It’s mid-July, 2013. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That meant nine states, mostly in the south, would no longer have to get federal approval before changing voting rights laws. And within days of that decision, both Texas and South Carolina enacted their previously-passed Voter ID laws which had been blocked by the Justice Department.

But on July 15, a year after much of the country peered inside the Keystone State’s loins and saw the devil, the battle over voter ID was back in court. The trial is set to go for two weeks and has brought similar details to the case as we heard in 2012.

At the point this is being written, before heading off on vacation, we’ve already heard testimony that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians—still—will be disenfranchised by the law’s enactment. Everything the state’s attempted to do with regard to the bill thus far, it’s been argued by the Public Interest Law Center of Pennsylvania, the ACLU, and others, has been a failure.

Adam Bruckner, who runs Philly Restart (and whom we wrote about last summer) testified that he’d originally been psyched when he heard the state would be helping people obtain IDs in accordance with the new law last year—which is something his group, which hands out checks and food to the homeless across the street from the Family Court building on Vine Street.

But, as he told PW last year and testified last week, it didn’t really work that way. Actually, it’d been a “disaster.” He told us in 2012 that the whole thing just made the process more confusing.

Expect to have heard more of that by the time you read this.

But here’s the thing: While the issue hasn’t been polled recently (at least that I’ve seen), most polls in most places show a majority of citizens approve of the idea of using an ID to vote. (Except in Minnesota, where Voter ID was blocked by voter referendum in 2012.

It’s not the worst idea in the world. On the surface, at least. And maybe, at some point, a law like that could be rolled out which actually works and gets much-needed IDs to those citizens who need them.

But here’s the problem: Republicans. Even after all the shit they dragged themselves through, they’re still looking at the law as a political one. As this video, being circulated by the Democratic party, seems to evidence:

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The state GOP (never mind national representatives) showed their hand way before Mike Turzai made his ridiculous comments. The legislation had been pushed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, and was brought to the floor by ALEC attendee Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, then passed by the Legislature to be perfectly timed with the 2012 presidential election. An election in which a black president who’d been partially hit by racist attacks by his far-right enemies. And many of those affected by the law would be minorities. Could the timing have been any worse?

This law, like so many others, has always been about one side winning elections. Not stopping fraud or, God forbid, helping anyone. And now that the very idea of presenting a piece of identification in order to vote has been tainted, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which we could see universal acceptance of such a requirement.

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

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