A funny thing happened the other day when a federal judge weighed the constitutional worth of a voter ID law.
He looked and he looked and he looked – but alas, he couldn’t find any real-life examples of the impersonation fraud that the Republican-enacted law was supposedly designed to prevent.
This was out in Wisconsin. But the details may well prompt you to experience deja vu.
On Tuesday afternoon, the federal judge junked the Wisconsin law that had been ginned up by Scott Walker and his Republican legislature, a law requiring that everyone bring a government photo ID to the polls in order to combat the supposed scourge of voter impersonation. Problem is, there ain’t no scourge – nothing, zip, squat – and therefore, no reason to make voting tougher for the disproportionately non-white and lower-income citizens who lack photo IDs.
The judge, Lynn Adelman of the U.S. District Court, wrote: “The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The (Republican regime) could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring at any time in the recent past…and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future.” Indeed, “it is absolutely clear (that the GOP law) will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”
Gee. Where have we heard that kind of thing before?
Now I remember…Pennsylvania!
Just like in Wisconsin, Tom Corbett and his Republican legislature ginned up a photo ID law that was supposedly designed to combat the voter impersonation scourge – even though the real purpose was glaringly obvious, as best articulated in 2012 by House Republican leader Mike Turzai, who told his fellow partisans that the law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.” And care to guess how may examples of voter impersonation fraud the state’s Republicans were able to cite?
When the photo ID con inevitably wound up in court, Corbett’s lawyers admitted in a sworn affadavit that the ostensible reason for the law was non-existent. Check it out: “There have been no investigations and prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania….(We) are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania….(We) will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania…(We) 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.”
Just as Judge Abraham tossed the Wisconsin law, virtually ensuring that the GOP won’t be able to “fix” it in time for the November midterm elections, the Pennsylvania courts ensured in 2012 that the Pennsylvania law wouldn’t mess with voters in the ’12 elections. And earlier this week, in fact, the Pennsylvania law took another judicial hit, further consigning it to limbo.
Corbett’s lawyers asked Commonwealth Court judge Bernard McGinley to reconsider his recent decree that the law is unconstitutional. He said no. He has already ruled that the photo ID requirement adversely affects up to 400,000 people and “unreasonably burdens” their right to vote. On page 36 of that ruling, he specificially cited the ruling GOP’s admission that voter impersonation fraud does not exist. He wrote that “a speculative harm [voter fraud], for which there is no evidence,” does not justify “an incursion into the fundamental right to vote.”
Corbett has 28 days to decide whether to take his vote-suppression crusade to the state Supreme Court. Who knows, maybe in that time he can find actual proof that voter impersonation fraud is more than a phantom menace. But don’t hold your breath. According to the journalism consortium News21, which surveyed district attorneys nationwide, there were 10 voter impersonation cases in the entire country during the first 12 years of this century. From the report: “With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.”
The rulings in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania don’t surprise law professor Richard Hasen, who runs the popular Election Law Blog. He says voter impersonation fraud is “a blip on the radar” because it’s “an exceedingly dumb way to try to steal an election. Someone would have to send people into polling places claiming to be others – either dead voters who have not been removed from the rolls, or people who have not yet shown up to vote, or fictitious people pre-registered and getting by any identification requirements when registering. Then the fraudster would have to hope that these imposters vote the way they were paid to. The fraudster would have to do this in large enough numbers to affect the outcome of an election, while avoiding detection of this conspiracy.”
All told, says Hasen, “it is time for voter ID supporters to throw in the towel….Why make voters face extra hurdles to voting, for no legitimate reason?”
Why? Because the Republicans are post-reason.
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