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Voter ID illustration
(Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune)
Judge Robert Simpson heard the first round of arguments Wednesday from attorneys in the case of a disputed Pennsylvania law requiring citizens to present photo identification before voting:
"This is a high-profile case. There's a lot of anxiety here," he said. "There will be a lot of people very unhappy with my decision no matter what I do."

But, he said, "take heart," because the case will likely go to higher courts before it is over.

David Gersh, the attorney representing the law's challengers, opened by saying the fraud that the law purports to stop doesn't exist. "The integrity of the electoral process is not enhanced by turning people away from the polls."

Speaking on behalf of the law, known as Act 18, was Patrick Cawley, senior deputy state attorney general: "Voter fraud will go undetected unless a tool, voter ID, is there to detect it." The attorney general's office has argued in a brief that plenty of time remains before the election for voters to obtain a photo ID, and the state has removed obstacles in the way of citizens seeking to acquire them.

The plaintiffs have an uphill battle. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Indiana's voter ID was constitutional:

The opinion left open the possibility that voters who had proof that they were adversely affected by such laws could petition the courts but made it clear that it would be difficult to prevail.

Witold J. Walczak of the Pennsylvania ACLU, which filed the lawsuit along with Advancement Project and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, agreed that the Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board made challenges more difficult.

“Going into federal court is like going to the plate with two strikes already against you,” Walczak said.

But activists who see the photo ID laws in Pennsylvania and elsewhere as daggers pointed at Democratic turnout hope that focusing their argument on state constitutional protections will get them around the Crawford decision.

In addition to the court case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the law's impact under the Voting Rights Act. Applewhite, now being called the "Rosa Parks of voter ID," was in court Wednesday, parked in her wheelchair. She has voted for years, but she doesn't drive and has no photo ID. Her attempts to get the required birth certificate so she can prove she is who she says she is have not succeeded.

Advocates of the law originally argued that only 90,000 Pennsylvanians would be affected. The state's own study, however, found that 750,000 were at risk of not being able to vote for lack of the required photo ID. That's 10 percent of the eligible population. A study commissioned by the plaintiffs in the case has concluded, however, that up to 1.4 million registered voters might be excluded from casting ballots.

Philadelphia's City Paper reported Wednesday that the number may actually be closer to 1.6 million. In heavily Democratic Philadelphia alone, the alternative newspaper reported, those without proper ID may run as high as 437,237 people—43 percent of city voters.

Whatever the tally, as my colleague Joan McCarter wrote Monday: "That's Pennsylvanians who are eligible to vote. More striking, more than a million actual registered voters don't have the proper ID. Most of those registered voters think they have valid ID, but actually don't, the researchers found."

Those most affected are the usual suspects in the GOP pantheon of those deserving of the squinty eye at the polls: the poor, single women, minorities, younger voters and the oldest ones. On average, that is, people more likely to vote Democratic. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican,  was perfectly candid about it: the Voter ID law "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."

As Turzai makes clear, suppressing hundreds of thousands of votes with this tool, could easily skew the results in Pennsylvania, not just in the presidential race but on downticket races throughout the state. By hook or by crook, Republicans are determined to keep people it can't count on away from the polls. And yet it is they who label others unAmerican.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 03:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Easier to buy 6,000 rounds of ammo than vote. (19+ / 0-)

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 03:46:17 PM PDT

  •  The ghost of Mr. Franklin is standing (19+ / 0-)

    on the steps of Independence Hall saying "Doesn't look like you're going to be keeping that Republic after all"

    Voter suppression, openly admitted, and the federal courts will probably endorse it.  It was a grand experiment while it lasted.

    •  or expressing concern about the democratic process (0+ / 0-)

      as it were, lets not get all caught up in R words.

      So voters get ID's.

      Doesn't mean they will always remember to bring 'em to the polls.  You won't have to be 93 year old Ms Viviette to get disenfranchised.  

      I usually have my new passport in my backpack when I head out to vote on my way to work.  I shouldn't have to show it- I've lived in the same town for 20 years and been an elected official of it for over 10.

      But if i space my ID  I won't be allowed to vote.  Even though every pollworker in the room, ever watcher on both sides knows me I will not be allowed to exercise my right because, why?

      "I'll press your flesh, you dimwitted sumbitch! " -Pappy O'Daniel

      by jakewaters on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 08:28:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They should be reminded (0+ / 0-)

        through voter outreach programs.  "Hello, Mrs. Johnson, remember when you go to vote, that you don't forget to bring your ID!"

        •  ..of course for GOTV this is what we do but (0+ / 0-)

          for the ACLU suit I'm just sayin'
          that local election boards are being empowered to disenfranchise anyone who spaces out on election day and doesn't take that one extra lump of plastic allong with them.  

          Maybe most will have time to trundle back home but folks who work out of town and are on a tight schedule, may not have enough time to wait in line a second time.  

          It isn't just the elderly, the poor and the minority voters who are at risk, its the just plain spacey among us who if they aren't already turned off enough by the constant barrage of negative media now certainly will be by election day.  

          I hate to be a cynic but I fear your 'Hello Mrs Johnson' robo call is likely to get deleted un-lisened to by most folks.  

          Unless we get folks really riled up, of course, about now needing PENNDOT's seal of approval to vote in the same place you've been voting for years.  But the time for that is now- outreach programs i fear may be too lttle too late.

          "I'll press your flesh, you dimwitted sumbitch! " -Pappy O'Daniel

          by jakewaters on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 11:38:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  These laws are some of the most scary things (15+ / 0-)

    Republicans are doing. A decade ago I was worried about the voting machines, but now I'm more concerned about voter suppression. It's not that the voting mechanics (questionable ballots, hackable machines, lack of any paper trail to check the votes) have gotten any better, it's that we're back to the days of Reconstruction when those in power stay in power by preventing the less powerful from exercising their democratic (small d) right to vote. Such a basic right being denied makes verified voting seem almost like a luxury.

    We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

    by Tamar on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 03:52:04 PM PDT

  •  Great post, MB (20+ / 0-)

    what the ACLU has in PA that was missing in Crawford case is a tremendous amount of evidence that millions are adversely affected. That might be at least enough for this judge to overturn the law. Yes, it will be appealed, but possibly the law won't be in effect for this November.

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 03:58:38 PM PDT

    •  Joan, I hope you're correct: (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfcouple, mayim, KayCeSF, singe, JamieG from Md
      what the ACLU has in PA that was missing in Crawford case is a tremendous amount of evidence that millions are adversely affected. That might be at least enough for this judge to overturn the law. Yes, it will be appealed, but possibly the law won't be in effect for this November.

      To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

      by Youffraita on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:21:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Plus (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      litho, OldDragon, Wee Mama

      the statement of the leader of the party who passed it, saying that affecting those millions will in fact benefit their candidate.

      "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

      by NWTerriD on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:26:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anyone interested in more info on this, check out (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Meteor Blades, marina, Garrett

    my entry from today all about this topic (doesn't cover the hearing much, but has tons of info on the fight against PA GOP voter suppression):

    Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

    by ProgressivePatriotPA on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 04:28:48 PM PDT

  •  I live in PA. (9+ / 0-)

    I have a state-issued ID.

    And I know what the GOP here is like.

    They will do anything, anything to disenfranchise the rest of us.

    They are evil.

    I'll vote -- they can't disenfranchise me b/c I already have the docs -- but I weep for those who will be disenfranchised, all b/c a vile bunch of GOPtards want to win elections by cheating.  B/c they know they can't win in a fair fight.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:19:03 PM PDT

  •  Which court would the one (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in the title be: the PA Supreme Court, US Federal Courts or (doubtful given context) SCOTUS?  I'm having a hard time figuring it out.

    my reading comprehension is off today.


    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:23:58 PM PDT

  •  The voter id law in WI was challenged (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, tobendaro, Garrett, bythesea

    in state court and is currently enjoined, on state constitutional grounds, and the injunction is awaiting appeal.

    If I'm not mistaken, there's also a federal case pending against the WI law.

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¡Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:47:10 PM PDT

  •  In my country (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldDragon, swampwiz

    Everybody has some sort of photo ident. Your health card is fine if you don't have a drivers licence like me. Or a student or job ident. Or your social security or welfare card. All sorts of possibilities. I also take in an electricity, phone or gas bill to prove residency. I honestly don't find this a big deal here.

    Then again, carrying ident with you at all times is normal in some countries. It doesn't turn us into NS or Sovjetski police states.

    Now, of course, if its exrremely difficult to obtain such ident, that's a different matter. Its quite easy here.

    Just an observation and not meant to approve of voter suppression.

    I know you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. -- S.I. Hayakawa

    by tapu dali on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 06:05:34 PM PDT

  •  I heard on NPR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    someone arguing about needing a photo ID to get married and get welfare and was not challenged on equating that with the right to vote... just sad that those equivalencies can be made and it isn't pointed out the right to vote is not the same thing.

    •  Not only is it a false equivalency.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kbroers, JamieG from Md

      When we registed to vote,
      our legal  IDs were checked.
      We signed, and our signatures were noted
      and became part of the legal record.
      Today they photo copy signatures...
      When we vote, our signature on that day
      is compared to the signature on record.
      The poll judges simply compare signatures.
      It's that easy.
      Voting also depends on the community:
      local polling places have election/poll judges:
      volunteers who check in those voters,
      with the records of the past.
      Most communities have the same poll judges
      who get to know the community, and the local voters. It's an insult when your neighbor who you've known all your
      life asks for an ID.
      Even urban precincts have judges who get to know their
      neighbors. That's the beauty of the system:
      it's neighbors checking in neighbors.
      All of a sudden this time honored system of
      community is no good?
      Are all the polling judges in collusion with voter fraud?
      I'm surprised more people are outraged about the insult of those who consider polling judge volunteers as inadequate.
      But those bullies who scream the loudest about fraud are the biggest frauds of all.

    •  How ironic ... (0+ / 0-)

      There are folks who originally didn't have an ID, but went through the hassles to get the ID to get welfare benefits, thereby making them able to vote - whereas, had the Repubs not pushed through this ID requirement for welfare, those welfare recipients would not have gotten the ID!  I'm loving it!

  •  Does this remind anyone of Oklahoma (0+ / 0-)

    I believe they're the ones that legislated against the practice of Sharia Law! Can you imagine how much of that was going on in Oklahoma?

    I haven't looked in a Tulsa phonebook lately but I assume I would not find a law firm specializing in the field...

    And now we have laws against voter fraud - and just like Sharia Law - we can't seem to find any to prosecute.

    Frankly this couldn't come at a better time for me: I'm extremely concerned that someone may unleash a unicorn at the next farmers market. I'm going straight down to the next council meeting and get a statute on the books.

  •  "There will be a lot of people very unhappy" said (0+ / 0-)

    the judge.

    so he's concerned about reaction. reaction that will include thousands of teabagger/dittoheads going on nothing but what the local and national radio blowhards have been telling them for years about the need for ID laws to keep illegals from voting and dems paying people  and ACORN and so on.

    that includes 7 penn state sports/limbaugh stations and 1 pittsburgh university sports/limbaugh station and probably a couple dozen more around the state that will be telling their semi captive audience what a liberal traitor that judge will be to rule against them.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and partisan lying by broadcasting sports on Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 07:03:55 PM PDT

  •  The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that ... (4+ / 0-)

    the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (referred to as the State of Pennsylvania) has NO EVIDENCE of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania or in other states.

    The ACLU included in its filing a surprising concession from state officials: a written stipulation that the state cannot pinpoint any instance of the kind of voter-impersonation fraud the new law aims to prevent.

    The state stipulated that it is "not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania," and has "no direct knowledge of in-person voter fraud elsewhere." State officials also said they would offer no evidence that "in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absence of the photo ID law."

    The state Attorney General's Office, which is defending the Corbett administration against the suit, declined to discuss the case Tuesday. But in a response filed last week, Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley said the legislature had the authority and wide discretion to regulate voting and argued that the law would disenfranchise no one.

    But they want to fix this non-existent problem anyway.

    "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." -- Patrick Henry

    by BornDuringWWII on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 07:04:26 PM PDT

  •  Its now so Americant o swindle everyone (0+ / 0-)

    that the R's might just be in the right to call us unAmerican if we refuse the swindle culture.  

    At any rate, I wanted to say that the move the R's are promoting makes voting a right of ID's, not a right of persons.  It is the ID that gets to vote, not the citizen.  

    If they want to do this, the court should tell them that they cannot have their way all at once.  Over ten years, perhaps, but to do it suddenly and all at once like this is widely harmful, as the plaintiff's case indicates.  

    The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief. -- Shakespeare

    by not2plato on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 07:26:48 PM PDT

  •  It's not Voter ID, it's Vote Rid. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    GOP want to get rid of the right to vote for urban, poor, old, and young voters.  

  •  Why not require two IDs? Or three? After all, (0+ / 0-)

    you'll never know whether or not people obtained their first and second ID fraudulently unless you put a mechanism in place to detect it.

  •  astounding that we are back fighting for the right (0+ / 0-)

    to vote. next we will refight the need for child labor laws and integration....but fight we must or everything gained by all those who came before us will be lost. what a fucked up way to run a country.

  •  sidebar : Tx voter id case (0+ / 0-)
    The Justice Department blocked the Texas law in March, citing the Voting Rights Act. Texas sued the Justice Department, sending the case to federal court in Washington. A three-judge panel is set to decide the fate of the law.

    It's not clear when the judges will make a ruling. The presiding judge, Rosemary Collyer, said they would try to have a decision in "quick order." The judges have said they would like to rule before November's elections.

    If you still believe in me, I ask you to stand with me, march with me, fight with me. I promise we will finish what we started, turn this economy around and seize our future. President Obama

    by anyname on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 08:03:30 AM PDT

  •  sidebar: report WI voting laws (0+ / 0-)

    Wisconsin: Changes in Voting Law Disfranchised Voters in Recall Elections

    If you still believe in me, I ask you to stand with me, march with me, fight with me. I promise we will finish what we started, turn this economy around and seize our future. President Obama

    by anyname on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 08:18:54 AM PDT

  •  What I would like to know is (0+ / 0-)

    How did these folks get registered to being with?  Doesn't someone need to show an ID (or birth certificate or electric bill, etc.) to register to vote?

    Look, I know why the enemy is doing this.  But the enemy does have a good argument that someone should be able to prove who he is.

    It sounds like the Democratic Party should fund community organizations - like the kind that BHO used to work for - to help get these folks their proper ID.  And the court cases should use folks who can't get an ID because they can't get a birth certificate (which is rare these days, but still an issue for elderly minorities) - or because the local ID office doesn't have long enough hours, etc., since they truly are being stopped from voting.  The folks who just don't have an ID are being stopped for voting because they have not gone  through the hassle of getting that ID - which is why I advocate that our allies find an effort for them to get them those IDs.

  •  PA (0+ / 0-)

    The legal push and pull over voter ID laws has moved through a growing number of states, as federal and state courts weigh the laws’ constitutionality. The fight in Pennsylvania, like an earlier one in Wisconsin, stands out in that plaintiffs believe they’ll be able to show clear harm to specific groups of people, including along racial lines.

    So the state will claim their voter ID law is the twin to Indiana’s law, which passed muster under the U.S. Supreme Court. But there are two big problems with that.

    First, this week’s case is being argued on state constitutional grounds, not federal constitutional grounds—as was the case with the Indiana law challenge. There is technically no “right to vote” established in the U.S. Constitution, only a prohibition of race-based voting obstructions. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s constitution is much more clear about its citizens’ voting rights.

    Second, civil rights lawyers failed in Indiana because they didn’t produce any individuals who had actually been harmed by the law. In the Pennsylvania case, there are 10 people who will show how they’ve been harmed by the law, including being denied ID, or being denied the documents needed to obtain ID. That makes it more akin to Missouri. In that state, when voter ID boosters claimed their law cloned Indiana’s, the Missouri Supreme Court still rejected it after residents testified how the law prevented them from voting. And the U.S. Supreme Court’s own Indiana decision left a path open for voters to re-visit the case if discrimination was found.

    If you still believe in me, I ask you to stand with me, march with me, fight with me. I promise we will finish what we started, turn this economy around and seize our future. President Obama

    by anyname on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 10:19:33 AM PDT

  •  Party-line decision (0+ / 0-)

    Commonwealth Court Judge Simpson is a Republican and I'm betting he'll decide this on party lines and uphold the Voter ID law.  Simpson recently sided with the minority in a case that held that a new natural gas development law designed to promote fracking does not permit the state to ignore local zoning laws.  Fortunately, Simpson was in the minority.  Pennsylvania's top court is currently absent a judge as Republican Joan Orie Melvin was suspended after being indicted on campaign corruption charges.  (Yes, there may not be voter fraud but there is plenty of good old fashioned corruption.)  This means that Simpson's decision will be affirmed if the high court splits evenly on party lines.

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