After Corbett’s voter-ID shift, the onus is on Philly voters to show up at the polls

     Viviette Applewhite of Germantown was a lead plaintiff in a recent lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's controversial Voter ID law. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Viviette Applewhite of Germantown was a lead plaintiff in a recent lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's controversial Voter ID law. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Election year could very well be the best thing ever to happen to minorities, the elderly and the poor in Pennsylvania. Why? Because Gov. Corbett, and not President Obama, is facing reelection, and pressing his case on voter ID is not currently in the governor’s best interest.

    Make no mistake about it: Gov. Corbett’s decision not to appeal the court ruling declaring Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law unconstitutional was a political one.

    That’s ironic because pushing the law through in 2012 — right before a presidential election in which Obama needed to win Pennsylvania — was a political decision, as well.

    Court challenges by the ACLU and NAACP forced the law to be shelved at the time. Now, those court challenges have resulted in the law being stricken down.

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    A calculated reversal

    Today, on the eve of an election in which Corbett will be running, the gallows he set up for Obama could have hanged Corbett, and he knew it.

    If he decided to press forward with an appeal to save voter ID, the Republican governor could have faced just enough backlash to make defeat all but certain.

    Of course, the governor could never say that, so he tried to put a happy face on defeat.

    “A photo identification requirement is a sensible and reasonable measure for the commonwealth to reassure the public that everyone who votes is registered and eligible to cast a ballot,” he said in a statement.

    Corbett also stated that he would work with the legislature to amend the law so that it could pass constitutional muster. Republican leaders, recognizing how divisive the issue has become, did not rush to echo Corbett’s stated desire to amend the law, though.

    The local impact

    All of that is good for Philadelphia.

    Many of those whose votes would be suppressed by voter-ID requirements, including Viviette Applewhite, the 95-year-old lead plaintiff in the case, live right here in the city.

    Philadelphia, which is home to one of eight Pennsylvania voters, also has a high concentration of minority voters.

    With a population that is 44 percent African American and 13 percent Latino, the city would have found its voice muted under the law; voters in those two demographics also comprise much of the city’s 26 percent poverty rate.

    In short, Corbett’s decision not to fight the court’s ruling at this time has the potential to give Philadelphia its voice back, but using our political clout is not just about Corbett. It’s about us.

    Here’s the truth

    Even when the voter-ID law was not an issue, Philadelphians did not step up to vote in gubernatorial elections. That’s not Corbett’s fault. It’s not the legislature’s fault. It’s our own fault.

    In the 2012 gubernatorial election, one million Philadelphians were eligible to vote. Only 435,000 of us did so.

    When Corbett took office after winning by roughly 350,000 votes, he cut nearly $1 billion from education. Twenty-four Philadelphia schools closed. Our children suffered, and that’s when we chose to complain.

    By then, it was too late.

    The time to make our voices heard is at the polls.

    No more excuses

    Whether we’re rich or poor, black or white, young or elderly, we must vote. And now that Gov. Corbett has decided not to appeal the decision on the voter-ID law, we have no excuse not to do so.

    Too many of us want to believe the politicians are the boogeymen who hold us down and keep us from succeeding, but that’s not always the case.

    By refusing to take advantage of the rights we have under the law, we are sometimes our own worst enemies.

    Voting in Pennsylvania is as easy as it’s always been thanks to the successful fight against voter ID. Don’t let the fight be in vain.

    Go to the polls.

    Cast your vote.

    If you don’t do so, don’t bother to complain.

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