Et Tu Pennslyvania?

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

I guess I should not be surprised when I read of certain states trying to “cleanse” the voting rolls under the guise of voter fraud.  However, I was saddened to read that the State of Pennsylvania was joining the growing list of so-called Red and some not so Red states that are taking steps to disenfranchise voters prior to the November National elections.  The State of Pennsylvania is poised to possibly disenfranchise almost 10 percent of its voting population.  “Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, which will take effect for the first time this November, may prevent 758,939 otherwise eligible voters, who do not currently have an acceptable ID, from voting.” Think Progress

Most of the states who are embarking on these attempts to reduce the number of legal citizens able to vote in the elections seem to come from the states that claim that they are merely taking steps to stop voter fraud.  Florida has been in the news lately with Gov. Scott’s attempts to purge the voting rolls and I recently wrote about an attempt in Georgia to prevent absentee ballots from being sent and received in time for them to be counted in the November elections.  These absentee ballots would have an especially dramatic impact on deployed military members right to have their votes counted.  Now, Pennsylvania has joined the fray and is attempting to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania from the almost invisible crime wave known as voter fraud!

Just what kind of photo identification is required to be able to vote in Pennsylvania?  “The new law requires all voters to show photo ID such as a driver’s license or nondriver PennDOT photo ID, U.S. passport, student identification card with expiration date, current military identification, or ID card issued to government employees.”  The Morning Call  This kind of requirement sounds reasonable on its face, but when you look deeper it is arguable that this requirement is intended to prevent likely Democratic demographics from voting.  “Philadelphia’s top election official, City Commission Chair Stephanie Singer, told the newspaper that the figures reinforced her view that the law was intended to decrease voter turnout in the predominantly Democratic city. She said Philadelphia “is hit much harder by this than any of the other counties.” The Morning Call

The leader in the Pennsylvania House recently confirmed that the Voter ID law will allow Gov. Romney to win Pennsylvania in November. “House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House’s end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.  “We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.  “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”  Politics PA

If I understand Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Turzai correctly, the only voters who are voting illegally in Pennsylvania are voters likely to vote for President Obama.  Am I missing something or did Turzai just admit that the Pennsylvania Voter ID law is a political gimmick designed to prevent likely Democratic voters from being able to vote.  Indeed, similar voting restrictions in Wisconsin were recently struck by a judge who claimed that their Voter ID laws violated the State Constitution.

“According to Wisconsin Judge David Flanagan, they violate the Wisconsin Constitution too. In an order issued yesterday, Flanagan temporarily suspended his state’s voter ID law and strongly hinted that he will eventually strike the law down permanently.  As Flanagan’s opinion explains, the Wisconsin Constitution provides particularly strong protections for the right to vote — “[e]very United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district,” regardless of whether or not they have an ID. Moreover, the state supreme court has interpreted this constitutional provision very robustly. “Voting is a constitutional right,” according to the Wisconsin supremes, “any statute that denies a qualified elector the right to vote is unconstitutional and void.”  Think Progress

Are these state laws that are being passed to curb so-called voter fraud just an excuse to prevent legal voters from exercising their right to vote?  If voter fraud is a real problem, where are the statistics and evidence to prove it?  In Ohio, a study found that the instances of voter fraud was infinitesimal.  “Despite his belief, representatives from the Board of Elections, the League of Women Voters, and the former Secretary of State office “have never even heard of one” instance of voter impersonation in Ohio. As the Brennan Center for Justice notes, a statewide survey found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004 out of 9,078,728 votes case — “a rate of 0.00004%.”  Think Progress

At least 22 states have taken steps to restrict the right to vote and the Justice Department is becoming engaged in the “discussion”, but will it be too little too late for the millions nationwide who may lose their right to vote?   Would the Voting Rights Act survive the Roberts Court if any of the challenges to these Voter ID laws make it to the Supreme Court? Is there a voter fraud problem in this country?  Are people confusing the term vote fraud with voter fraud?

To me, the right to vote is an integral part of my right of free speech because it is the time when my government has to listen to what I say!  What do you think?

Additional references:  Think Progress; The Brennan Center; ACLU

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