Election 2012

Pennsylvania judge shuts down voter ID law on second try

Pennsylvania judge shuts down voter ID law on second try

A little under two months ago, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson refused to issue an injunction against the state’s new voter ID law, which requires photo identification when ballots are cast.  The “star witness” against this supposedly oppressive law cheerfully ran out and got herself a free ID card from the state.

That wouldn’t do, so the Pennsylvania Supreme Court told Judge Simpson to try again, and think real hard before allowing the law to go forward.  On Tuesday, he reached the “correct” decision and effectively nullified the law, without striking it down.  As reported at Politico:

Under the ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said poll workers in the state can still ask voters to present ID at their polling places, but must allow them to cast a ballot even if they do not have adequate ID.

Simpson, who originally ruled in favor of the law this summer, said he had underestimated the difficulties many eligible voters have had in attempting to get the new state-issued photo ID cards and acknowledged that some of the state’s voters could be disenfranchised.

“I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time,” Simpson wrote in his decision. “For this reason, I accept Petitioners’ argument that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed.”

CBS News says that Simpson’s ruling “came after listening to two days of testimony about the state’s eleventh-hour efforts to make it easier to get a valid photo ID.  He also heard about long lines and ill-informed clerks at driver’s license centers and identification requirements that made it hard for some registered voters to get a state-issued photo ID.”

The state implemented some last-minute adjustments to make getting a photo ID even easier, and spent six months educating voters about the new law… but of course, voters also had to listen to the theatrics of vote-fraud defenders, which certainly contributed to their sense of confusion.  Apparently it also doesn’t matter that a generous allowance for casting provisional ballots was included, followed by six extra days to produce the necessary ID.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, which supported the law, is not pleased with Judge Simpson’s revised ruling.  “Pennsylvanians will have to wait one more election cycle before they can be sure their elections are fraud-free,” sighed adjunct fellow Horace Cooper.  Well, good thing the 2012 election isn’t important or anything.

General counsel Justin Danhof of the National Center added, “Judge Simpson should have held strong to his prior convictions and the rule of law, rather than bending to the race baiters and fraud enablers.  The ACLU’s case relied on flawed data, racial rhetoric and plaintiffs who should have been excused since they can all obtain photo IDs.”  He thought it was a mistake to make accommodations to critics after the law was passed, since that ultimately bolstered the argument about public confusion that Judge Simpson eventually accepted.

Taken seriously, the arguments leveled against voter ID in Pennsylvania would be a recipe for anarchy.  It would not be difficult to prove that almost any controversial law was unduly confusing for average citizens.  (I could prove that about ObamaCare in about sixty seconds, using only finger puppets and a kazoo.)  But of course, no one advancing these arguments is interested in intellectual consistency, or plain common sense.  They desire only legal and rhetorical cudgels to beat off sane voter ID procedures for one more election.  Appeals are still possible, but at the moment it looks like the defenders of vote fraud got what they wanted in Pennsylvania.

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