As Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says today, Pennsylvania’s voter ID law is a solution in search of a problem. Incidents of voter fraud, outside of Republican candidates for office, are non-existent. And yet this law has been airdropped into the general election, with shifting guidelines for eligible IDs and standards at the voting booth. It’s sure to create a massive amount of chaos.

During a call about the voter ID lawsuit Tuesday, State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-PA) stressed how unprepared Pennsylvania is to implement the law without disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.

“It is absolutely unequivocally clear that the state cannot pull this off by Election Day,” he said. “There’s not enough information or staff time to implement this in time, and it will cost the state an extra amount of millions of dollars to get this done.” [...]

Hughes said he and other district officials have encountered many individuals who were given mixed messages about what kinds of identification were permitted and what exactly they needed to do in order to get the proper photo ID. He blamed the confusion on lack of training [...]

What’s more, handling the number of voters who need the ID — a conservative estimate found more than 750,000 people without ID — is far beyond these offices’ resources.

“There’s no way PennDOT could process anywhere near that number of IDs, even if people could get the documents and the transportation to get there,” said Penda Hair, co-counsel for the voter ID lawsuit.

With less than 100 days until the election, there’s no way to provide all the IDs needed for eligible voters, or even get the word out about the need for ID. As a result, Election Day will feature madness, with angry voters turned away from the polls.

Incidentally, the low rate of public workers in states starved by budget cuts and the reliance on public workers to distribute IDs to the eligible voters affected, who are mostly in traditionally Democratic constituencies, fits together very nicely if you’re a Republican.

Pennsylvania may get a reprieve in the form of a judicial ruling invalidating the voter ID law. But it’s not like voter ID represents the only challenge facing elections officials in 2012. In part because of budget cutbacks and in part because of inattention, it’s an open question whether we can handle elections in this country.

Twelve years after a too-close-to-call presidential contest imploded in a hail of Florida punch card ballots and a bitter 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling for George W. Bush, the country’s voting systems remain as deeply flawed as ever with any prospect of fixing them mired in increasing levels of partisanship [...]

In Ohio, the recommendations of a bipartisan commission on ways to reduce the large number of provisional ballots and long lines at polling stations in 2008 have come to naught after a Republican takeover of both houses of the legislature in 2010. In New York, a redesign of ballots that had been widely considered hard to read and understand was passed by the State Assembly this year. But a partisan dispute in the Senate on other related steps led to paralysis.

And states have consistently failed to fix a wide range of electoral flaws identified by a bipartisan commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III in 2005. In Florida, for example, the commission found 140,000 voters who had also registered in four other states — some 46,000 of them in New York City alone. When 1,700 of them registered for absentee ballots in the other state, no one investigated. Some 60,000 voters were also simultaneously registered in North and South Carolina.

The article blames partisanship. But I think that’s largely one-sided. After 2000, there was an opportunity to call attention to voting irregularities on the left, and it was mostly dropped. Now we have this terrible patchwork quilt of state laws that can barely hold together. It will take another outrage at the polls before this gets fixed.