With Wisconsin’s voter ID law tied up in court, and Indiana trending in the Republican direction after a 2008 Obama victory, the only state which will have a strong voice in the Presidential election that has a voter ID law on the books is Pennsylvania. There, at least 750,000 voters currently don’t have the necessary identification to cast their ballot in November, and a new study claims the number is actually 1.4 million. The ACLU of Pennsylvania, who is suing the state over the law, notes in their study that the lack of ID is higher for female voters, Latinos, the elderly, the poor, and those without a high school diploma. Draw your own conclusions about who benefits from that.
The ACLU of PA suit began today, and the state made an amazing acknowledgement – they admitted that they have never prosecuted or even investigated a case of voter fraud in the commonwealth.
The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”
Additionally, the agreement states Pennsylvania “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.”
This is incredible. You have the state of Pennsylvania defending in court a solution to a problem that they acknowledge from the start does not exist. The state was also the source of the figure of 750,000 eligible voters without an ID. And it won’t be difficult for the ACLU of PA to establish that obtaining voter ID at this late stage represents a significant burden on a vulnerable – and historically disenfranchised – population.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has opened an investigation into Pennsylvania’s voter ID law. This is different from their Voting Rights Act Section 5 responsibilities, as Pennsylvania is not a designated state for pre-clearance of voting rights laws. But under Section 2, DoJ can review any “voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” The Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law in a split decision back in 2008, but the facts may be clearer in this case, especially with Pennsylvania’s admission about voter fraud.
If the Pennsylvania law is upheld, the political dynamic in the state will be completely upended, and massive resources put into getting IDs for eligible voters. But this can only go so far, and suppression is sure to follow at some level. So this lawsuit definitely bears watching.