Pennsylvania is a state infamous for its history of voter fraud, and problems persist: Last month, Philadelphia city commissioner Al Schmidt reported that he’d found numerous violations in just a small sample of his city’s precincts. But now the state has taken a step toward cleaning up its elections.
Last year, following on the heels of other states such as Georgia, Kansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Texas, and South Carolina, Pennsylvania enacted a voter-ID requirement. This is a commonsense reform, and polls show that Republicans and Democrats alike support it. Liberal interest groups, however, claim that voter ID disenfranchises voters who cannot afford IDs and therefore is tantamount to Jim Crow.
Several such groups, including the ACLU, the NAACP, and the League of Women voters, sued to prevent the law from going into effect. The lawsuit was without merit, and fortunately, a state judge refused to issue an injunction against the law last week.
Pennsylvania’s new requirements are easily met; anything from a passport, to a military ID, to a driver’s license, to a student ID may be used to vote. Further, just like every other state that has implemented a voter-ID law, Pennsylvania will provide a free ID to anyone who doesn’t already have one. The state even allows voters to cast a provisional ballot if they sign an affirmation that they can’t afford the supporting documentation needed to get an ID. There is simply no way that this law could prevent an eligible voter from casting a ballot.
In his ruling, state judge Robert Simpson concluded that a voter-ID requirement is “a reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life.” Further, he wrote, “protecting public confidence in elections is a relevant and legitimate state interest.”
Judge Simpson also found that there were relatively few Pennsylvanian voters without ID, despite the plaintiffs’ claim that there were 1 million such voters. Judge Simpson rejected the ACLU’s attempt to “inflate the numbers” and threw out the testimony of their expert as “not credible.”
This is not the first time that the assault on voter ID has failed in court. Similar laws in Georgia and Indiana were upheld in both state and federal courts, and the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s law (which is more stringent than Pennsylvania’s).
The ACLU has said it is going to appeal the Pennsylvania case, but the foolishness of the lawsuit was amply demonstrated on the day following Simpson’s decision. The lead plaintiff in the case, Viviette Applewhite — who had claimed she did not have an ID and so would not be able to vote — went to a local DMV office and promptly obtained an ID without any problems.
Voter ID isn’t a cure-all for election fraud, especially in a place like Philadelphia. But it is a legitimate first step toward improving the integrity of the election process, and Judge Simpson was right to let it go into effect.