Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Ruling: Judge Halts Enforcement Of Law For Election

It appears that Judge Robert Simpson’s ruling might just be a band-aid for the law’s many problems.  Apparently voters don’t have to show ID but the poll worker can still ask for it!

Sounds like a quick-fix that may be filled with confusion and dismay on election day.

The Huffington Post

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday postponed the enforcement of the state’s new strict voter ID requirement until after the November presidential election.

In a much-anticipated ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ordered that voters without government-issued photo ID should be allowed to cast regular ballots.

“That’s a huge win,” said Witold J. Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, “because last week the judge was suggesting that he was going to have every [voter without ID] vote provisionally.”

At the same time, the judge specifically ruled to allow the state to continue its education and advertising campaign, which currently tells voters that IDs are required.

Walczak said that if the state doesn’t change that message, “we may be back in court.”

“You can’t be telling people you need ID if you’re not actually requiring ID,” he said. “That advertising has to be modified to reflect reality.”

“Confusion is not a good thing on election day,” he said. “Confusion is going to mean some voters stay home. Confusion is going to mean that some poll workers get it wrong.”

Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania secretary of state, said the state is “pleased because the law itself hasn’t changed. What’s going on is there’s a soft rollout for the general election, just like the primary.”

Voters will still be asked for ID, he noted. If they don’t have it, they’ll be given information on how to get it.

As for the advertising campaign, “we’re looking into what needs to be updated,” Keeler said. “To completely take that away, would just muddle the area, as it were.”

“We’ll work on fixing things if we think they need to be fixed,” Keeler added.

Opponents of the law had expressed fears that it could dissuade or prevent tens of thousands of mostly poor, elderly, young or infirm citizens from voting.

Simpson’s injunction “will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of [the new law] through the general election,” the judge wrote. That means that, just like during the primary election, voters will be asked for ID but still be allowed to vote if they don’t have it.

The law as passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor had only allowed people without ID to cast “provisional” ballots, which would be thrown out unless they returned with ID within six days.

The Pennsyvlania legislature is one of several that, after Republicans took control in 2010, passed legislation to make it harder, rather than easier, to vote.

The voter ID bills, like similar moves to restrict voter registration, eliminate early voting, purge voter rolls and send pollwatchers into minority precincts. All are ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, an almost nonexistent problem according to research on the issue. In contrast, such moves have a disproportionate effect on minorities and young voters, and ultimately serve to block legitimate but probably Democratic voters from exercising their constitutional rights.

Simpson’s new decision comes six weeks after he upheld the entire law as is.

His initial ruling dealt mostly with whether the General Assembly had the authority to establish such voting requirements. Simpson decided it did — basing his decision in part on a bigoted and discredited 19th century state court decision.

Opponents of the law appealed, and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court sent the case backto Simpson, this time ordering him to rule on the practical side of things, namely: Was the state upholding the law’s procedures for deployment of ID cards such that there would be “no voter disenfranchisement” as a result?

The high court’s order seemed designed to force the judge to enjoin the law, given that the state had stipulated it wasn’t following the exact procedures set out in the law and that so many registered voters clearly still lacked ID.

Witnesses last week movingly described the many frustrating barriers faced by the elderly and infirm in particular in their attempts to get ID.

But on Thursday, Simpson indicated that he would let “the good parts” of the bill stand.

Republican Ethic: Victory Is More Important Than Democracy

I know that I’ve been showcasing this issue recently, but it’s serious when a country built on the concept of  Democracy and for many decades, recognized as the world’s leading Democracy, slowly let’s it slip away in favor of victory.

Democracy got Blacks in the South the vote; People from other lands seeking better opportunities, citizenship;  The freedom to practice any religion we choose or none at all, and much more…

Addicting Info

In trying to understand why some civilizations flourish and why others have a very limited life, anthropologists have noted that those cultures in which parents in general and fathers in particular feel somehow threatened by the success of their own children, are destined to have a finite existence. Those cultures that celebrate and encourage their children to be wiser and more accomplished than the previous generation, inevitably flourish for centuries.

Yesterday’s (12/27/11) New York Times editorial took note of Republican efforts to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote for the Democratic Party: Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young. In a number of states in which the GOP controls one or both legislative houses, laws are pending or have already been passed that would require voters to present valid state issued ID cards to vote.

Of course Republicans aren’t so stupid as to acknowledge the intended purpose of such efforts. Voter ID legislation is being promoted under the pretense of limiting voter fraud. Noteworthy fact: no state in which such bills are pending or have been passed, have reported any significant problems with voter fraud.

The NY Times editorial points out that over 21 million Americans who are eligible to vote, do not have such valid state ID cards. Many college students in particular lack such ID cards. Out of state students will either miss the opportunity to participate in the democratic process or will have to take one or more days off from school to return home communities to vote. Even if a student is from the state in which he/she is attending school, not having a valid driver’s license or  state issued ID will make their participation in the election, an impossibility.

The Times editorial notes:

William O’Brien, the speaker of the New Hampshire State House, told a Tea Party group earlier this year that students are “foolish” and tend to “vote their feelings” because they lack life experience. “Voting as a liberal,” he said, “that’s what kids do.” And that’s why, he said, he supported measures to prohibit students from voting from their college addresses and to end same-day registration. New Hampshire Republicans even tried to pass a bill that would have kept students who previously lived elsewhere from voting in the state; fortunately, the measure failed, as did the others Mr. O’Brien favored.

Many rational, reasonable, thinking Americans would be proud to know that their children want to participate in the democratic process, regardless of their political leanings. It’s a sad commentary on the emotional maturity and intellectual capacity of  Republicans who are more concerned about achieving victory at the ballot box than in encouraging and empowering the next generation of Americans to take full advantage of their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy that many of us hope will flourish and be around for many generations to come.

Wisc. DMV workers ordered to not offer voter IDs

I suppose that since it’s pretty much out in the open that the GOP does NOT want minoritiesseniors and poor people voting because they generally vote for Democrats. However, to tell the agents at the Wisconsin DMV  not to ask patrons if they want to get a free voter ID is blatantly undemocratic.

The Raw Story

In states where a photo identification is required to vote, Republican lawmakers have been able to avoid legal challenges to the rule by giving away free voter ID cards, thereby ducking the label of a “poll tax.”

But in Wisconsin, which recently passed one of the nation’s most restrictive voter ID laws, another roadblock exists: ignorance.

A leaked memo written by a high-ranking Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation official stipulates that DMV workers are not to offer the voter ID, leaving it to the patron to explicitly ask for the free ID, then fill out the proper paperwork.

“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it,” Steve Krieser, executive secretary for the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, wrote to employees.

Signage which was supposed to notify DMV patrons of the new voting rules is also missing in action, still being designed, according to The Capital Times.

After passage of the voter ID law, Gov. Scott Walker (R), pictured above, called for the closure of as many as 16 DMV offices, mainly in Democratic-leaning areas. After intense public backlash, he reversed himself, expanding the DMV and adding operating hours in some offices to accommodate increased demand for ID cards — at a cost of $6 million over the previously allotted budget.

Democrats argue that voter ID laws are unnecessary due to a complete lack of evidence of any organized voter fraud scheme. They say it unfairly targets students, the poor and the elderly, who are more likely to not have a photo ID and also tend to support Democrats over Republicans.

Related articles