‘The right of suffrage’

    We’re awaiting the first judicial verdict on Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law, the Republican measure that’s designed to tamp down Democratic turnout and deliver the state to Mitt Romney.
    Within a matter of days, or even hours, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson will likely tell us whether the new law enacted by the governing GOP is in breach of the state constitution (which requires that the right of suffrage be “free and equal”), and whether the law should be shelved for the 2012 election. Here’s what we learned during the recent court trial:1. The state GOP’s rationale for enacting the law was a blatant lie. Republican leaders, led by the governor, had insisted that the new photo-ID requirement was necessary in order to thwart the scourge of “in-person voter fraud” (which occurs when con artists cast ballots by impersonating registered voters). But, as court documents showed, there is no scourge. The governing Republicans admitted it in writing: “There have been no investigations of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania…(The state) will not offer any evidence or argument that in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in November in the absence of the photo ID law.”2. The registered voters who lack government-issued photo IDs are disproportionately minority, urban, and lower-income. The state Department of Transportation found that 9.2 percent of all registrants (and 18 percent of Philadelphia registrants) lack those photo IDs. Meanwhile, in trial testimony, a voting expert from the University of Washington said that PennDOT’s statewide statistic was too low, that it was actually 12.8 percent.3. Republican leaders had insisted earlier this year that the photo-ID requirement would adversely affect only one percent of registered voters statewide. But when state election official Rebecca Oyler was asked during the trial to explain how she had come up with the one percent figure, she testified that she had spent less than 24 hours on the task, without sufficient stats from PennDOT. And when Oyler’s boss, election overlord Carole Aichele, was quizzed on the stand about the one percent figure, she said she didn’t actually know how many voters were adversely affected; worse yet, “I don’t know what the law says.”4. In the scant time remaining between now and November, the state is ill-prepared to process a flood of photo-ID requests from the hundreds of thousands of voters who need them. The state has allocated only a fraction of the funds that would be required to speedily assist all those people. PennDOT has short office hours, and many of the clerks don’t have a clue about the law. One voter testified at trial that a clerk told her: “I can give you general information, but I can’t guarantee it’s accurate.” The Pennsylvania constitution requires that “elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.” But, as clearly documented by the GOP’s maneuvers in Pennsylvania (mirroring the party’s proposed “reform” laws in roughly 34 states), the whole purpose of the voter ID law is to impede the right of suffrage, to reshape the electorate so that it looks more like an exclusive gated community. Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1988, and the white people’s party knows that its prospects for winning the state are dim again in 2012 unless it can force a disproportionate number of non-white downscale voters to jump though impossible bureaucratic hurdles. The court trial exposed those hurdles.Republicans will continue to spin their “reforms” as a crusade against “voter fraud” – even though a new investigation has uncovered just 10 voter-impersonation cases nationwide in the past 12 years – but the Pennsylvania trial exposed the con. And every once in awhile, the advocates of voter suppression drop the con and vent their true feelings. For instance, here’s what conservative commentator Matthew Vadum wrote last autumn, in reference to downscale Americans:”Registering them to vote is like handling out burglary tools to criminals.”Judge Simpson has an imminent opportunity to condemn that mendacious mentality, and strike a blow for the “free and equal” right of suffrage.

    ——-

    Quote of the day, from ex-Bush/GOP strategist Mark McKinnon, commenting on the Paul Ryan pick. The punch line says it all: “I think it’s a very bold choice. And an exciting and interesting pick. It’s going to elevate the campaign into a debate over big ideas. It means Romney-Ryan can run on principles and provide some real direction and vision for the Republican Party. And probably lose. Maybe big.”——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.