Optimism may be premature in Voter ID delay
Democrats and civil liberties proponents received a short burst of celebration on Friday as a state judge barred the enforcement of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law for the November 2013 municipal and judicial elections.
But the implication that this is a win for Voter ID opponents is murky, if at all true.
The latest incarnation of a fight over Voter ID came about last month, when the state and opponents of the law went head to head in Commonwealth Court, a fight which stemmed from last October, when the state failed to prove it could accommadate all voters in time for Election Day, 2012.
And though there’s yet to be a ruling in the latest case, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley—already being called an “activist” on conservative news sites—issued the injunction, in part, due to the confusion put forth surrounding the bill.
“[T]he Court cannot (in good conscience) ignore the fact that the information conveyed to electors, if relayed at all, at the last two regularly scheduled elections, was inaccurate,” reads McGinley’s opinion with regard to the injunction. Part of that, according to the judge: “poll workers were required to inform electors that they would not be able to vote at the next election unless they had a compliant photo ID,” even while an ID was not required for the current election.
Being as this is the fourth time implementation of the law has been delayed, each time a poll worker told a voter about the next election, it turned out to be false. And McGinley, in turn, made any poll worker who said it in May, also a mis-informer. Such requirements, said McGinley, were “erroneous at best, deceptive at worst.”
Less prominent in judges’ ruling has been the state continuing to roll out its advertising policy. During last November’s elections, there was a steady stream of ads on TV, radio, billboards and the sides of buses, telling voters to “Show it” (“It” being identification) in numerous languages around the state. One ad campaign even related Voter ID to the fight for civil rights, but not in the way you’d think.
Pennsylvania’s official voting forms continued to note that an ID was required when voting, though according to those forms found online today, correctly note identification is only required when voting for the first time.
Advertising aside, Philadelphia Weekly has wrote numerous times in the past of the law’s potential to discriminate based on race, gender and class. And since Republican activists have often noted they’d like to make it harder to vote, many have concluded this aspect of the law is by design.
For example, Ann Coulter has noted in the past that she’d be willing to again bar women from voting in elections, since that demographic tends to swing toward the Democratic party. Similarly, the late William F. Buckley, a conservative activist and author, had noted that restoring the law that says one must own property to vote, would be essential. Conservative news outlets often say that liberals and Democrats detest Voter ID laws because Democrats need to cheat to win. This was implied last year when State Rep. Mike Turzai’s staff attempted to clean up his statement that Voter Id would allow then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania.
When the Supreme Court ruled part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional earlier this summer, states like Texas and North Carolina quickly began a new push for their own identification laws which had been blocked by the U.S. Department of Justice, citing the VRA. North Carolina’s Republican governor signed that state’s law late last week, citing a cut down on voter fraud, which has been deemed the most strict in the nation.
Voter fraud—as we’ve additionally noted in the past—is extremely rare, even though it’s often used as a rationale for the law. Which is part of the reason why opponents of the law often note the other side are using fear tactics to get the public on their side.
That said, we heard a new one the other day. Speaking on WPHT 1210, one host (whose name I didn’t catch; I was in the car) implied on Friday that last week’s violence in Egypt, in which at least 600 people were murdered on the streets, was in part due to a lack of Voter ID law in that country. (Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s election was a fraud, he said, which led to the military taking over, which led to protesters getting killed; if voter ID had been in place from the get-go, Morsi never would have been elected in the first place. He did not cite evidence to say Morsi’s election was a fraud, though.)
Which brings us full circle: To date, no Pennsylvania judge has ruled that the law itself is racially or sexually biased, nor have they decided it would impede on anyone’s right to vote. Rather, the state has, thus far, not been able to prove that they’d be able to provide enough free IDs for those who need them in time for elections, or that the state itself was pretty much incompetent when trying to enact the bill.
Which ends this Voter ID piece the same way it’s essentially ended in each column since 2011: Stay tuned.
Randy LoBasso’s ID makes him look like he’s 26 years old. You can follow him on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso