by Jeremy Leaming
The tired, tawdry politics fueling the raft of harsh voter ID laws received a boost today via a flimsy and annoying Pennsylvania state court judge’s opinion.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson shunted aside arguments that Pennsylvania’s new voter ID measure shoved into law by rightwing lawmakers just in time for the approaching presidential election that makes voting much more difficult for low-income people, minorities, the elderely and students to vote.
A recent report from the Brennan Center for Law and Justice, which studied Pennsylvania’s law and a number of the other outlandish voter suppression measures, showed that it was not easy for working people, the elderly and others to obtain the proper ID for voting. The offices have restricted hours and can be difficult to get to, especially for people trying to hold down jobs to feed and house families. The Brennan Center said that more “than 1 million eligible voters in these 10 photo ID states fall below the federal poverty line and reside more than 10 miles from the nearest ID-issuing office. These voters can be particularly affected by the significant costs for the documentation required to obtain photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. By comparison the notorious poll tax – outlawed during the civil rights era – cost $10.64 in current dollars.”
Judge Simpson, however, was unmoved by the onerous hurdles, saying that voters unable to obtain the proper photo ID could rely on absentee or provisional ballots. The judge’s opinion is available here.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter are representing Pennsylvanians challenging the law.
Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project, blasted Simpson’s decision, calling it an “affront to a core American value and takes us back to a dark time in our nation’s history. This requires hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters who lack the specific government-issued photo ID to jump through burdensome hoops to exercise their most basic legal right. Many will not be able to vote at all.”
Suppressing the vote, regardless of what some journalists will claim, is the overarching motivation behind most of the new measures. Indeed in Pennsylvania, one lawmaker boasted to a gathering of Republicans that the new voter ID law would help Mitt Romney carry the state in November.