October 4, 2012
A JUDGE'S RULING Tuesday that Pennsylvania's voter-ID law does not have to be enforced for the Nov. 6 election doesn't go far enough.
The discriminatory law, like poll taxes, literacy tests and other painful attacks on democracy, should be permanently retired.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr.'s ruling allows anyone eligible to vote to do so on Nov. 6 without showing a photo ID. But poll workers can still demand to see an ID, which leaves the door open for voters to be harassed.
The mass confusion produced by trying to hurriedly enforce a law affecting 8.3 million voters, and which was only signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March, had many frustrated Pennsylvanians questioning whether they should even try to vote.
The state's option for non-drivers required applicants to run a bureaucratic gauntlet to get a substitute ID issued by either the state Department of Transportation or the Department of State. But PennDOT workers were poorly trained for this massive new responsibility. Not surprisingly, voters had to wait in long lines.
Recently registered voters were turned away because their information was not in the system, while some longtime voters were denied IDs because clerks couldn't find their information.
The state never tried to test how long it would take to get IDs to eligible voters. Court testimony indicates its program was a colossal failure. Fewer than 11,000 of the up to hundreds of thousands of people who needed state-issued ID cards had actually received them. Sometimes, government failure is due to incompetence. But in this case, completing a herculean task in a short period of time simply proved impossible.
Simpson didn't retreat from his original ruling in August that the voter-ID law is constitutional. "I reject the underlying assertion that the offending activity is the request to produce photo ID," he said. That means voter ID could still lead to the disenfranchisement of otherwise eligible voters in later elections.
Instead of waiting for that, or leaving the matter to the courts, the Legislature should repeal this throwback to the days of Jim Crow.
Fewer than 11,000 of the up to
people who needed state-issued ID cards had actually received them.
The Philadelphia Inquirer