Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has ruled the strict requirements of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law will NOT be in effect for the Nov. 6 general election, giving some level of temporary finality to what has become an incredibly confusing and contentious issue.
Voters will be asked for their identification at the polls, but will vote by normal procedures and their votse will count regardless of whether they have an ID, according to officials on both sides of the case.
The Court’s ruling wasn’t so much about the constitutionality of the Voter ID law as it was about the state’s inability to implement it before the 2012 election.
This confusion stemmed from arguments during floor debate that only 1 percent of registered voters lacked valid ID; it turns out it was more like 750,000 voters, or nearly 10 percent of all registered voters, who lacked PENNDOT-issued ID.
Once this number was revealed, the likelihood of getting everyone an ID before the 2012 election became questionable at best. Simpson wrote in his opinion, "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.”
Even worse, the level of confusion was unprecedented; suddenly, no one knew if his or her ID was good enough to vote. The potential for problems at the polls, ranging from serious lines and delays to utter chaos, became very real.
When it became quite clear that some legitimate voters would be disenfranchised by the poor implementation of the law, the public began to take notice. And when the Corbett administration was forced to admit in court there was not a single instance of voter fraud it could point to that would have been prevented by this law, the scale began to shift away from enforcing the law this year.
To be clear, I think you should have to show proper ID to vote. But this law was far too restrictive to be practical.
For example, a gentleman stopped me at my Senior Expo last week and told me that because he was a disabled veteran without a driver’s license, his military ID would not be valid to vote because it didn’t have an expiration date (none of them do).
Although it may be convenient to assume this law is a necessary tool to prevent criminals who vote multiple times with false ID, it actually hurts voters who honored this country with their military service.
Supporting such a law that could deny a veteran his or her right to vote is simply unpatriotic.
We tried to fix these kinds of loopholes during debate on the House floor, but were defeated along party lines. If the goal was truly and solely to prevent voter fraud, these common-sense changes should have been made and much of this confusion could have been avoided.
Some bipartisanship could have made this a better law that would have survived the scrutiny of the courts, but the environment in Harrisburg has unfortunately been one adverse to bipartisanship. Sometimes I wonder if good ideas are rejected simply to avoid giving the “other side” credit, which is not only sad, but hardly the way to run a Commonwealth.
For those quick to point to partisan underpinning in the court’s decision, it is critical to know the order halting the implementation of the Voter ID law was written by a Republican judge, on behalf of a Republican-majority Commonwealth Court.
The halting of Voter ID isn’t about a political victory for one party or another; it’s about stopping a poorly written and even more poorly implemented law.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.