Supreme Court fails to stop politically-motivated law
Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on the new state voter LGHnWLfiFDWLRn ODw LV D vLFWRUy IRU FULWLFV RI WKH FRnWURvHUVLDO OHJLVODWLRn — sort of.
The decision, that was supported by three Republican and one Democratic justice and rejected by two Democrats, halted the enforcement of the new law and directed the lower court to assess the availability of alternDWLvH IRUPV RI vRWHU LGHnWLfiFDWLRn. 3DVVHG Ey WKH 5HSuEOLFDn-GRPLnDWHG state legislature in March, the law requires Pennsylvania voters to each SUHVHnW VWDWH-DSSURvHG SKRWR LGHnWLfiFDWLRn FDUGV DW WKH SROOV.
The justices were responding to an appeal of Applewhite vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a lawsuit brought by eight Democrats, the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who are seeking to block the law’s implementation for this year’s Nov. 6 presidential election as part of their challenge to the law’s constitutionality.
The plaintiffs maintain the law, that is similar to those passed in nine other states in the last two years, creates unnecessary obstacles for established voters such as minorities, the elderly and young adults who are more inclined to cast their ballots for Democrats.
State statistics show as many as 759,000 Pennsylvanians might be prevented from voting by the law on Nov. 6.
Republicans insist the law was designed to prevent voter fraud although VWDWH RIfiFLDOV FRuOG SURGuFH nR HvLGHnFH RI LW. ,n IDFW, D UHFHnW VWuGy RI DOO 50 states funded by the Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation VKRwHG WKDW vRWHU IUDuG Ln WKH 8nLWHG 6WDWHV wDV “LnfinLWHVLPDO”, RFFuUring with about one in every 15 million registered voters.
The claim by House Majority Leader Michael Turzai, R-Allegheny County, that Pennsylvania’s “history of voter fraud” was the motivation for the law was further discredited in June when he boasted at a GlP dinner that the law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Nevertheless, in August, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert F. 6LPSVRn, D 5HSuEOLFDn wKR fiUVW KHDUG WKH ODwVuLW, GHWHUPLnHG WKDW any inconvenience created by the new law would be minimal in terms RI 3HnnVyOvDnLDnV REWDLnLnJ SURSHU vRWHU LGHnWLfiFDWLRn.
But volunteers for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center IRunG D ODFN RI DFFuUDWH LnIRUPDWLRn Rn REWDLnLnJ SKRWR LGHnWLfiFDWLRn for voters during their 47 visits to 43 PennDlT licensing centers and in three out of 10 visits, they were incorrectly told they would have to SDy $13.50 HDFK IRU vRWHU LGHnWLfiFDWLRn FDUGV WKDW DUH IUHH.
Swarthmore College political science professor Carol Nackenoff has predicted that no matter how well-trained poll workers are about the new voter ID law, they will interpret it differently and make mistakes.
The state Supreme Court justices agreed that proper deployment of the new voter ID law in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 6 election is indeed questionable, but rather than issuing an injunction against its implementation, bounced it back to Simpson for review.
They indicated that if Simpson still believes the law is not problematic “the most judicious remedy, in such a circumstance, is the entry of a preliminary injunction, which may moot further controversy as the constitutional impediments dissipate.”
The two dissenting Supreme Court justices, Democrats Seamus P. McCaffery and Debra McCloskey Todd, made a good point in wondering why their colleagues just didn’t block the law themselves.
“The eyes of the nation are upon us, and this court has chosen to punt rather than to act. I will have no part of it,” Todd wrote in her dissent.
Indeed, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court missed the opportunity to WDNH D fiUP VWDnG Rn Dn unnHFHVVDUy DnG SROLWLFDOOy-PRWLvDWHG ODw WKDW threatens to disenfranchise voters.