Thursday, October 11, 2012

PA Voter ID Law Ruling: Judge Halts Enforcement Of Law For Election: Not Far Enough!

Although I applaud the Pennsylvania Commonwealth court’s decision to withhold implementation of the Voter Identification requirement until after the 2012 Presidential election, I assert that it does not go far enough.

On October 2, 2012, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. withheld implementation of the recently enacted controversial voter identification requirement until after the 2012 Presidential Election.  On hearing the ruling, both sides celebrated victories. The attorney for the ACLU called it a "huge win", while the State was allowed to continue running advertisements erroneously stating that voter ID would be required at the ballot box.  Poll workers are instructed to ask for a government-issued picture identification from voters.  Should a prospective voter not have such identification, they are given information on how to obtain such an ID, and then allowed to vote.  A previous ruling from Simpson allowed those without ID to vote provisionally, their vote valid only if they return with identification within six days.  This was overturned with the suspension of the regulation until after the November election.  

According to the Huffington Post, these voter id requirements are based on the faulty premise that voter fraud is a threat to the election process. These Republican-sponsored regulations have been place by 19 states since 2010, based on the myth that to function in a "modern society", one must have a government issued identification card. Yet according to the Huffington Post, the Republican's own research does not bear this out.  Researchers found that of 600 million votes cast in Presidential elections since 2000, voter fraud has been alleged only 2,068 times.  Only ten cases of actual in-person voter fraud have been identified, which calculates to approximately 1.666 e -8 (.000000016%).  

The same study shows that nearly 11% of the population does not have such identification for a variety of reasons, including disability, age, poverty, or lack of transportation.  They may live too far from an "official" identification procurement agency, or may not be able to recover their birth certificate or other required information.  They may not have any need for a state issued drivers license.   ( )   Although governments may wish to have the vital statistics, fingerprints and a picture of every citizen, they do not.  And in this journalist's opinion, they should not. 

Even in debating their defense for voter identification, the Republicans concede that voter fraud is rare.  "What in the heavens is wrong with showing an ID at polls?” said Bill Denny, a Republican congressman from Mississippi, further illustrating the party's disconnect with the reality of America.

Wrong is that these conservative based restrictions on voting rights set precedents for more specious regulations, all of which have the ultimate effect of discouragement from voting to disenfranchisement of entire demographics.  Historically, these demographics are most often minorities, women, the poor, elderly, and disabled, for reasons that range from health and finance, education and literacy, and even include family social dynamics. Traditionally, these are often Democratic based voters. 

The continued airing of advertisements claiming that identification will be required at the polls will serve to cause even more confusion to the complicated ideology and procedures of electoral politics.   

Judge Simpson gave a timely eleventh hour ruling on an issue which thumbs its nose at fifty years of civil rights.

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