Last month, Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson upheld Pennsylvania’s Republican voter ID law, one of the strictest in the country, and a law that Republicans admitted was enacted to “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” The ACLU appealed the judges ruling and took the matter to the state’s Supreme Court, which vacated Simpson’s order on Tuesday, and, in a show of monumental cowardice, bounced the matter back to the lower court, with instructions to review the implementation of access to the identification stipulated by the law:
[T]he Law contemplates that the primary form of photo identification to be used by voters is a Department of Transportation (PennDOT) driver’s license or the non-driver equivalent provided under Section 1510(b) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1510(b). See N.T. at 770-71. Furthermore, the Law specifically requires that – notwithstanding provisions of Section 1510(b) relating to the issuance and content of the cards – PennDOT shall issue them at no cost:
to any registered elector who has made application therefor and has included with the completed application a statement signed by the elector declaring under oath or affirmation that the elector does not possess proof of identification . . . and requires proof of identification for voting purposes.
As such, the Law establishes a policy of liberal access to Section 1510(b) identification cards. However, as implementation of the Law has proceeded, PennDOT – apparently for good reason – has refused to allow such liberal access. Instead, the Department continues to vet applicants for Section 1510(b) cards through an identification process that Commonwealth officials appear to acknowledge is a rigorous one. See N.T. at 690, 994. Generally, the process requires the applicant to present a birth certificate with a raised seal (or a document considered to be an equivalent), a social security card, and two forms of documentation showing current residency. See N.T. at 467, 690, 793.1 The reason why PennDOT will not implement the Law as written is that the Section 1510(b) driver’s license equivalent is a secure form of identification, which may be used, for example, to board commercial aircraft.
The Department of State has realized, and the Commonwealth parties have candidly conceded, that the Law is not being implemented according to its terms. See, e.g., N.T. at 1010 (testimony of the Secretary of the Commonwealth that “[t]he law does not require those kinds of – the kind of identification that is now required by PennDOT for PennDOT IDs, and it’s the Homeland Security issues”). Furthermore, both state agencies involved appreciate that some registered voters have been and will be unable to comply with the requirements maintained by PennDOT to obtain an identification card under Section 1510(b). See N.T. at 713 (testimony from a deputy secretary for PennDOT that “at the end of the day there will be people who will not be able to qualify for a driver’s license or a PennDOT ID card”), 749, 772, 810, 995. It is also clear to state officials that, if the Law is enforced in a manner that prevents qualified and eligible electors from voting, the integrity of the upcoming General Election will be impaired.
So, here we are, less than fifty days before the election, and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has decided to play chicken with voters and their access to a ballot, which was pointed out in the dissenting opinion from Justices Seamus McCaffery and Debra McKloskey Todd, who wrote:
“The eyes of the nation are upon us, and this Court has chosen to punt rather than to act.”
Yes, that’s exactly what they did.
Now, the lower court has until October 2, 2012 to file its supplemental opinion, a mere 36 days before the general election, and given the amount of back-and-forth over this issue between the courts, you can imagine the level of confusion on the part of the electorate by that time, which, I’m sure, is merely a serendipitous happenstance from the Republicans’ point of view. After all, the more confused people are, the more likely they are to throw in the towel and decide that the whole fiasco simple isn’t worth the time, effort or brain damage.
Which is part and parcel of the Republican plan to steal the vote…