Presented with the combination of the state’s admission that there has never been a verifiable case of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and the filmed boast by a state legislator that passing the law will give Mitt Romney the state in November, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did what any righteous jurists would do faced with proof that a law has been passed with detrimental intent. They kicked the law back to the lower court that said it was valid and told the judge to rethink his ruling. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has until October 2 to “make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification cards on a developed record in light of the experience since the time the cards became available.” Translation: show the proof that the state has removed any barriers to obtaining the IDs.
During the oral arguments in the case, the judges stressed the time frame of the law, how it seemed to be fast-tracked to make it harder to comply. They asked why this law could not have been phased in over a couple of Federal election cycles. If Simpson can prove that the IDs are easily obtainable and there will be no voter disenfranchisement, the law will stand. The three Republicans and one Democrat on the Supreme Court voted to send the case back. Two Democratic judges dissented.
The state has been scrambling to deal with some of the more egregious cases, like the octogenarian who could not obtain a birth certificate to get a photo ID and who has been voting for almost 50 years.
David Gersch, the head lawyer challenging the law’s constitutionality, said, “It’s certainly a very positive step in the right direction in that the court recognizes that the state does not make adequate provision for people to get the ID that they would need to vote. In addition, there is a practical problem with getting the ID to people in the short time available.” Ron Ruman, speaking for the Pennsylvania Department of State, insists, “We believe, as we have all along, that any legal voter who wants to get an ID is able to do so.” The law allowed for an easy method for previously registered voters to obtain the necessary ID cards, but local authorities demanded birth certificates with raised seals, Social Security cards, and other documents. The original requirements for the state voting ID was not consistent with Homeland Security rules for identification for boarding airplanes. A compromise ID was devised in late August, but there has been so much confusion over the issue that people really don’t know what they need to do.
The basic premise – that proper identification should be required for voting – is not a bad one. But the way it has been handled by Republican states has been wrong-headed and way too obviously intended to limit Democratic voting. The drive for voter ID laws has been driven by a falsehood rooted in the past, that certain Democratic-dominated local governments played fast and loose with voting integrity. We know it used to happen. We know all about Chicago and Boston, about the ballot stuffing and dead people voting, about the old joke, “vote early, vote often.” Those days died almost half a century ago. The political machines that ran those voting scams died out, literally, as the old politicians died off.
But the events of the 2000 and 2004 elections threw a harsh light on the Republicans, with questions about the voting in Florida and the new voting machines. So, the right wing has been acting as though today were 1952 instead of 2012, insisting that Democrats were still taking orders from Chicago’s late Mayor Richard Daley, a man who even looked like a thug.
They have compounded the accusations by claiming that President Obama was elected by illegal immigrants. There were 11 million illegals in 2008, 1.1 million were minors but I didn’t find an age breakdown with the state illegal population figures, so I have to ignore them. If the right wing were correct and every single illegal in every state risked arrest to come out of the shadows in the presence of local officials to cast illegal votes on ballots they might not be able to read, would the election have come out differently? Remove the illegal population from the votes cast for President Obama and only North Carolina and Florida would have been impacted. They would have gone to John McCain instead of President Obama. That’s a total of 42 electoral votes from the President to McCain. The President’s total would have dropped from 365 to 323, and McCain’s would have risen from 173 to 215. It takes 270 to win the presidency. Even if all the illegals had voted, Barack Obama would still be president.
In New Hampshire’s primary, our beloved right wing “investigative journalist” James O’Keefe proved that it’s not easy to vote if you are dead, at least in states that actually keep their voter registration rolls current. His operatives chose the names of people who had died within a couple of weeks of the primary, figuring that those people would not necessarily have been purged yet, but it’s not easy to pull off identity theft in person, particularly when you are in small precincts where the voters are known. In Florida, the problem was not dead people voting or illegals voting. The recent super purge of the registration rolls proved that Florida’s election officials are not very efficient at keeping their registration rolls updated or properly verified. The fault was not with the voters but with the officials.
In Mexico, a person goes in and has a national identity card issued on his or her 16th birthday. They go in regularly to have the photo updated or to be reissued when they move. The card acts as a Social Security card for employment and a voter ID card. I’m not sure if it also acts as a driver’s license, but that wouldn’t be a bad idea. To obtain the card, one must prove citizenship. It’s that simple – one card covers most needs. But the right wing, which is screaming for these voter IDs reject the idea of a national identity card. It’s a state’s rights thing to them. But that attitude just negates the whole voter ID idea. I’ve moved from state to state. I’ve turned in my old drivers license from one state and had a new one issued, no questions asked. I didn’t have to prove my citizenship when I got my first learners permit at 15. Mom vouched for me, and she had had her drivers license since 1956. Which brings us to my final argument for a whole new national voter ID system.
One hundred fifty million Americans are registered to vote and have drivers licenses. Most of them didn’t have to prove their citizenship to do either of those things. These laws have created two classes of citizens in this country: those who have had to prove they are citizens in order to obtain ID and be able to vote, and those who have been grandfathered without proof of citizenship. The unproven voters outnumber the proven voters 10 to 1.
Like to explain to us again how these laws protect the sanctity of the vote?