Court fails to stop po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated law

The Ambler Gazette - - OPINION -

Tues­day’s menn­syl­va­nia 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 DvDLODELOLWy RI DOWHUnDWLvH IRUPV RI vRWHU LGHnWL­fiFDWLRn. 3DVVHG Ey WKH Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated state leg­is­la­ture in March, the law re­quires 3Hn­nVyOvDnLD vRWHUV WR HDFK SUHVHnW VWDWH-DSSURvHG SKRWR LGHnWL­fi­ca­tion cards at the polls.

The jus­tices were re­spond­ing to an ap­peal of Applewhite vs. Com­mon­wealth of menn­syl­va­nia, a law­suit brought by eight Democrats, the Home­less Ad­vo­cacy mro­ject, the League of tomen Vot­ers of menn­syl­va­nia and the menn­syl­va­nia Chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored meo­ple, 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 menn­syl­va­ni­ans might be pre­vented from vot­ing by the law on Nov. 6.

Republicans in­sist the law was de­signed to pre­vent voter fraud alWKRuJK VWDWH RI­fiFLDOV FRuOG SURGuFH nR HvLGHnFH RI LW. ,n IDFW, D UHFHnW study of all 50 states funded by the hnight Foun­da­tion and the Carnegie CRUSRUDWLRn VKRwHG WKDW vRWHU IUDuG Ln WKH 8nLWHG 6WDWHV wDV “Ln­finLtes­i­mal”, oc­cur­ring with about one in ev­ery 15 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers.

The claim by House Ma­jor­ity Leader Michael Turzai, R-Al­legheny County, that menn­syl­va­nia’s “his­tory of voter fraud” was the mo­ti­va­tion for the law was fur­ther dis­cred­ited in June when he boasted at a Glm din­ner that the law “is go­ing to al­low Gover­nor Rom­ney to win the state of menn­syl­va­nia.”

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 WHUPV RI 3Hn­nVyOvDnLDnV REWDLnLnJ SURSHU vRWHU LGHnWL­fiFDWLRn.

But vol­un­teers for the menn­syl­va­nia Bud­get and mol­icy Cen­ter IRunG D ODFN RI DFFuUDWH LnIRUPDWLRn Rn REWDLnLnJ SKRWR LGHnWL­fiFD­tion for vot­ers dur­ing their 47 vis­its to 43 men­nDlT li­cens­ing cen­ters and in three out of 10 vis­its, they were in­cor­rectly told they would KDvH WR 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 menn­syl­va­nia 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 m. 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 menn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court missed the op­por­tu­nity WR WDNH D fiUP VWDnG Rn Dn un­nHFHVVDUy DnG SROLWLFDOOy-PRWLvDWHG ODw that threat­ens to dis­en­fran­chise vot­ers.

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