If it ain’t broke ...
When it comes to voting rules, Pennsylvania’s Legislature operates pretty much the way we’ve come to expect: If it ain’t broke, fix it. If it is broke, don’t. In 200R, an election reform commission studied state voting regulations and issued a report with a number of recommendations.
For instance, the panel suggested changing the law to allow any voter to cast an absentee ballot without conditions.
In other words, you wouldn’t need to come up with a bogus excuse for why you couldn’t go to your local polling place on Election Day. You could vote ahead of time no matter what your reasoning — laziness, rain in the forecast, or maybe even efficiency, wanting to get your ballot marked, submitted and off your to-do list.
Thirty-three other states allow that common-sense convenience — or, similarly, voting by mail. Not Pennsylvania. That suggestion has been on the table for seven years with no action from the General Assembly.
It’s broken — or at least not as efficient and forwardthinking as other states’ systems. But lawmakers are not in any rush to fix it.
Now, an example of something that’s not broken but which lawmakers have pulled out all the stops to “fix”: Voter impersonation at the polls.
State officials have not been able to point to a single example of a person voting as someone else, and yet Republicans controlling both chambers of the Legislature rushed headlong into the costly chaos of Voter ID.
The new law has raised concerns about how many people could find themselves disenfranchised on Election Day, and the state has been scrambling to inform people about the rules and to provide free ID. It’s a ridiculous waste of money — especially when you consider the transparently cynical motives behind it. A legislative leader said the measure guaranteed Mitt Romney would win Pennsylvania. But if the current polls hold, it doesn’t even look like this expensive mess will accomplish its intended outcome.
The state Supreme Court heard a challenge to Voter ID last week, and issued an order Tuesday sending the mattter back to Commonwealth Court. We can only hope that court decides to issue an injunction this second time around.
Maybe that would give the Pennsylvania Department of State time to focus on other election rules that might improve rather than depress voter participation: online voter registration. State officials said they were looking into that sensible measure but were sidetracked by the Voter ID commotion.
In other words, “It’s broken, but there’s no time to fix it because we’re busy fixing something that isn’t broken.”
A recent Associated Press story noted how backward Pennsylvania is when it comes to sensible voting rules that make it easier for citizens who, rightly or wrongly, have come to expect and demand such from our “convenience society.” If it ain’t broke, fix it. If it is broke, don’t. It could be our state motto.