As PA waits for decision, judge who originally upheld Voter ID recants

voteridpicPennsylvania’s Voter ID law is stuck in limbo, and most experts on the issue don’t see the courts sorting it out, completely, within the next year or two. While we’re waiting, though, it would help everyone to know that the judge who wrote the majority opinion upholding the nation’s first voter ID law, 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner, recently admitted in a new book that he was wrong and did not fully understand the ramifications of U.S. voter identification laws. He spoke with the Huffington Post about it:

In an interview with Huffington Post Live’s Mike Sacks on Friday, however, Judge Posner said he made a mistake in the voter ID case, pointing to the fact that there was too little evidence of the harms voter ID would inflict at the time he handed down his decision. “[T]he problem,” Posner explained, “is that there hadn’t been that much activity with voter identification.” He blames his erroneous decision on the fact that the evidence presented to him at the time didn’t provide “strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people entitled to vote.”

Of course, now we know better. Studies have shown that Voter ID laws may disenfranchise registered voters from casting a ballot even though the odds of fraud occurring on Election Day—and by a voter, no less—are virtually non-existent. One study, performed by the AFL-CIO, found more than 30,000 Pennsylvanians may have stayed home during the November 2012 election due to confusion over the state law, which was actually not in place during the election.

That first law was passed in Indiana in 2005 and upheld in 2007 by the 7th circuit. Since then, 29 additional states, including Pennsylvania, have put ID laws into place. Though the legality of PA’s law remains murky.

A commonwealth judge is expected to rule on the Voter ID law, again, by the end of the year, and it’s already been barred from the November 2013 judicial and municipal elections, in spite of the Dept. of State attempting to run “Show It” ads throughout the commonwealth. No matter what the ruling, both sides have promised another challenge.

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

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