Judge Strikes Down Voter ID law

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled the state’s onerous Voter ID law as unconstitutional this morning.  Republicans in Harrisburg pushed it through in order to disenfranchise voters whose demographics run largely Democratic.  The effort was naked election rigging and violated citizen’s voting rights.  This is a victory for voters and the PA ACLU.

More Than 180 Voter Suppression Laws Proposed

By jamar Thrasher, Third and State

We have written a lot about Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law, which has been put on hold by the courts for the upcoming election. Turns out we’re not alone when it comes to voting suppression.

That may not be news to you, but you may be surprised to know that more than 180 voter suppression laws were proposed in 2011 and 2012, according to The New York Times. These are laws defined as restricting or limiting voter access based on a myriad of qualifications.

Among the voter suppression laws enacted over the past two years: reductions to early voting, tougher voting rules for ex-convicts, limitations to voter registration drives, and (drum roll, please) voter identification requirements. The data were collected and analyzed by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

From the Times report:

A wave of at least 180 proposed laws tightening voting rules washed over 41 statehouses in 2011 and 2012, by the count of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Only a fraction of those bills passed and survived the scrutiny of the courts, but the new rules cover voters in 13 states, several quite populous, in time for next month’s election. More laws are to start afterward.

Partisans and experts are arguing, over the airwaves and in the courts, about the effects of all this on voter turnout, for which few studies exist. (The most rigid voter ID laws are believed to affect about 10 percent of eligible voters, said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center.)

Voter ID Headed Back to Supreme Court

In a stark rebuke to the six Supreme Court Justices who ordered him to file an injunction against the Voter ID law for next month’s election a Commonwealth Court Judge disobeyed them today.  Judge Robert Simpson handed down an extremely limited injunction which will only result in a new appeal.  His order says voters can vote without photo ID November 6th but only on a provisional ballot if they don’t provide an ID.

Those provisional ballots won’t be counted for six days likely leaving the presidential election in limbo along with the state’s electoral votes.  If the number of provisional ballots exceeds the winner’s tally on election day the election results will remain up in the air.

How will you know if your provisional ballot will be counted?  Unless you write in a unique name for at least one office you won’t know.  This strange order says that although no ID be mandated those people must use a provisional ballot.  They will not have to produce a photo ID within six days (really two because PennDOT ID centers would only be open for two days) so why force them to use provisional ballots?  This is ridiculous.

Six Justices remanded the case back to this insubordinate Judge with orders to issue an injunction if even one voter was deemed to have their fundamental right to vote disenfranchised.  The Commonwealth cannot prove that event cannot be  avoided so the law should have been struck down completely for this election.  Judge Robert Simpson, an obvious idiot sitting on the bench, refused to do so.  We’ll remember this when he is up for retention.

Help Get the Vote Out in Pennsylvania

The Voter ID case remains up in the air and may well go back to the state’s highest court.  Time is running out as election day is little over a month ahead.  This is the final week to register to vote in November so if you aren’t registered, or your registration doesn’t exactly match your photo ID you need to contact your county elections services office.  I wouldn’t relay on any other methods as too many stories are out there of Republican voter registration fraud.

We must assume all voters will need photo ID on election day.  As such DailyKos.com is organizing volunteers to aid the National Urban League and Occupy the Vote in recruiting volunteers.  

It is essential to get voters to the polls November 8th.  Turnout in Pennsylvania since 2008 has been abysmal.  As a result we now have U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, Gov. Tom Corbett, an anti-choice Pennsylvania House and a Pennsylvania Senate so empowered they are restricting women’s access to legal health care.  We lost ten pro choice House members in the 2010 bloodbath.  

Volunteers will be asked with tasks such as phone banking, canvassing, tabling, data entry and providing transportation to get people to the polls.  Go here to sign up.

Elections do have consequences.  There is much at risk this year and there are good people running up and down the ballot.  Congressional races, the U.S. Senate seat held by Bob Casey and control of the State House are up for grabs along with three statewide row offices:  Attorney General, Auditor General and Treasurer.  Everything depends on turnout, especially in Philadelphia.  The City turnout lately hasn’t been good and has provided Republicans with victory after victory.  You can help turn this around with your volunteer time.

Confused About Voter ID? You’re Not Alone

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

The eyes of the nation are truly turned to Pennsylvania as the ACLU is back in court today challenging Pennsylvania’s strictest-in-the-nation Voter ID Law. The Commonwealth Court is hearing evidence to determine whether the new Department of State voter ID will do the trick to ensure that anyone who needs an ID can get one, for free, in time to vote in November. If the state fails to make that case, the judge could issue an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect.

Early evidence seems to indicate that could happen. As Capitolwire.com has reported (subscription), Judge Simpson indicated Tuesday he will consider an injunction and has asked lawyers to be prepared to provide input on its scope and force. 

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center released a report on this topic exactly. The report, Moving Target: Pennsylvania’s Flawed Implementation of the Voter ID Law, asks the question: "How is PennDOT handling the new Department of State ID?" The answer, in layman’s terms, is simple: Not so good.<!–break–>

Seven months after the law was enacted, PennDOT offices still do not all have information about the Voter ID Law, including a poster prepared by the Department of State and basic fact sheets for voters to take.

Worse, we went looking for information about the new Department of State voting ID, and we couldn’t find any. The only information that was available was a press release on the topic issued on July 20 — and to get it you had to ask for it.

PBPC partnered with SEIU staff who conducted observations and interviews in 44 PennDOT driver's license centers between Sept. 10 and 17. They asked PennDOT staff what voters had to do if they wanted a voter ID and if a person who lacked certain documentation could still get an ID.

Across the state, in one-third of the cases, the staff never mentioned the Department of State ID. In close to half the cases, PennDOT staff gave information that was wrong, including telling observers that they would have to pay for the PennDOT ID.

In the most surprising finding, PennDOT staff indicated they would discourage people from getting a Department of State ID because it could only be used for voting purposes. Well, yeah, that was the whole point.

Many PennDOT staffers were genuinely interested in helping people get an ID, but the line staff, information officers and examiners were confused, couldn’t answer questions and had to get help from supervisors to provide even basic information. 

One staffer summed it up well: “We got training for what that was worth, but it’s all confusing because they keep changing things."

So guess what happened? Department of State officials announced Tuesday that they were changing the rules again. An admission that the process is still too hard for voters to get the ID.  

The grounds keep shifting and voters will pay the price. We recommend that the state delay implementation until they can get the procedures in place and everyone who needs it can get an ID. If they won’t do it, Judge Simpson should.

Daryl Metcalfe: 47% Are Lazy

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-ALEC) thinks if you’re one of Mitt Romney’s 47% you’re lazy and don’t deserve the right to vote.  I guess he missed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling this week in which six Justices said voting is a fundamental right.  Metcalfe doesn’t think you deserve to vote if you’re in the PA National Guard, stationed in Afghanistan and not earning enough to pay income tax.  He thinks if you worked all your life and  now are in retirement you’re too lazy to go get an ID and don’t deserve to vote.  If you’ve been seriously injured at work because Pennsylvania refused to regulate workplace safety he thinks you don’t deserve the right to vote.  He thinks if you were born born Black, have been discriminated against in the job market and couldn’t get a good education because Pennsylvania won’t adequately fund public schools you’re really just a lazy bum who doesn’t deserve to vote.  Daryl says if you’re a working woman earning 77 cents to each dollar a man in your same position makes you’re just a lazy bastard who doesn’t deserve to vote.

Who does this moron thinks deserves to vote?  Only those neanderthals who think as he does.  He’s obviously a moron because he doesn’t comprehend that constitution he and his fellow tea baggers are always carrying around but never bother to read (other than the Second Amendment).  Every right we have derives from the right to vote.  When you disenfranchise someone you threaten every other right they possess.  These rights didn’t come from god they came from the framers and writers of our constitution.

The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal and that all deserve the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  Just not if you’re one of the Romney/Metcalfe 47%.  Gee, I missed that somewhere in our laws.  

No government has the right to force me to obtain a government issued ID.  Gov. Corbett actually stated last week that he thinks every one of us should carry ID at all times.  I have news for Corbett and Metcalfe:  Pennsylvania is not a police state and your efforts to make us one will be remembered.

PA Supreme Court: Delay Voter ID

In a victory for democracy the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the lawsuit attacking Voter ID to be remanded back to Superior Court to render a new verdict delaying implementation of the requirement disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.  Now perhaps we can go to federal court and get it declared unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Hears Voter ID Arguments

PCN telecast the Supreme Court arguments on Voter ID this morning saving me a trip to Philadelphia.  Watching and Tweeting the event I have some hope this terrible law, Act 18, will be, at least, stayed.  Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued for an injunction saying there isn’t enough preparation and time to  implement the law.  They made no argument the law is unconstitutional because it appears to be so under Pennsylvania law.  Since this is a case of state law being argued in a state court only state law applies.  Whether or not the law is constitutional under federal law is a case for the federal courts.  Federal courts have knocked down similar laws elsewhere.  This morning’s arguments have no bearing on federal issues of equal protection for instance.

Cases where legal, eligible voters are denied their fundamental right to vote can not be made until that actually happens.  Unfortunately irreparable harm will already have occurred where votes were not cast and counted that were legal in a federal election.  I didn’t hear much argument about such irreparable harm this morning.   The appellants case sounded weak to me, they simply want an injunction based on the fact the Commonwealth is unable to produce ID’s for voters.

Arguments began about whether the right to vote is fundamental.  The State argued it is not, that the legislature can apply limits on it.  They also went on to try and deny the state’s stipulation that no verifiable case of voter fraud has ever happened either here or elsewhere.  This got so ridiculous Justice Debra Todd finally read the entire stipulation to the Governor’s clueless lawyer.

Justices Todd and Seamus McCaffery asked pointed questions throughout supporting the implementation of an injunction.  Interestingly Republican Thomas Saylor had some very intriguing queries to the state’s lawyers.  His vote may be in play here or he might have been playing devil’s advocate.  One never really knows.  I found arguments that PennDOT is implementing the law specious.  There have numerous reports of the agency charging people $13.50 for the ID’s making this a poll tax.  Others say they’ve taken acceptable forms of identification only to be rebuffed by untrained PennDOT employees and have made repeated trips trying to secure an ID.  If someone has to make five trips to get an ID this law is wrong and unjustifiable.  That imposes an undue burden on voters.

The fact Tom Corbett’s lawyer Mr. Putnam began arguing in court that voter fraud exists was laughable and it destroyed any credibility he had before the Court.  When Justice Todd publicly embarrassed him by reading Corbett’s own stipulation saying otherwise I almost felt sorry for the bastard.  Almost…

Is State Rep Rick Saccone Delusional on Voter ID?

In the PA Supreme Court arguments this morning Justice Debra Todd was forced to read the Commonwealth’s stipulation that no verified case of voter impersonation fraud has ever happened in the state.  Gov. Corbett’s lawyer was actually trying to back off that statement to the extent she felt it necessary to read it into the record.  The stipulation is definitive:  there has never been a verified case of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.  Why then did State Representative Rick Saccone claim otherwise yesterday?  Is he delusional or a practiced prevaricator?

I called his office this morning for comment and am awaiting a response for his conduct yesterday at The Blue Flame Restaurant in Pleasant Hills.  Saccone represents a district in Allegheny and Washington counties and is a former professor according to his official website.  Professors are trained and expected to deal in facts not fantasy.  I suppose this explain why he’s no longer a professor.

According to sources who attended the event when the question of voter ID was raised Saccone claimed voter impersonation fraud is rampant.  Of course that was either a bold faced lie or Saccone is delusional.  I asked his office if he is, I’m looking forward to their response.  Worse, the woman who asked the question was then subjected to shout downs including one man who yelled “shut your mouth!”  Amidst this intimidation and abuse Rep. Saccone failed to call anyone out for their abusive behavior, stop the verbal assaults or apologize to his constituent for the treatment was accorded at his event.

What does this say about the man’s character?  I asked that also of his Harrisburg staffer.  She claimed several Republican House members cited personal cases where they say someone tried to impersonate them at the polls.  Of course this is hearsay and all of these claims are based on disproven urban legends.  Some of our State Representatives need to discover Snopes.com.  Urban legends are no basis for writing legislation.  If so perhaps Rick Saccone should spend time writing laws against dragons and unicorns.  They’re as much of a threat as voter fraud.

If Rep. Saccone does not justify his failures of character exhibited yesterday where is his sense of personal responsibility?  I await his response.

PA Supremes Hear Voter ID Today

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, sitting in Philadelphia, hears arguments for and against Voter ID this morning.  The six members of the state appellate body are evenly split 3-3 by political party.  Meanwhile federal courts are striking down similar laws in various other states.  Ohio’s refusal to allow early voting is also being challenged by a federal court.

Voting rights are under attack by those claiming impersonation at polls is a problem.  No case has been filed in Pennsylvania in living memory so conservatives decided to use that rampant fraud to disenfranchise 758,000 eligible voters.  It’s just coincidence (tongue in cheek comment) that most of those without a photo ID are, demographically, Democrats.

One of the central arguments against the law will be the charge that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson cited a bigoted case from 1869 to justify his ruling.  That case Patterson v. Barlow held that ruffians and degenerates (as considered by those outside Philadelphia) weren’t worthy of voting.  The new law is similar in that it was passed by Pennsylvanians outside Philly to, largely, disenfranchise Philadelphia voters.  Studies show that up to 43% of voters in the City of Brotherly Love don’t have acceptable ID.

Should the Supreme Court fail to over ride Voter ID opponents have little time to go to federal court.  A deadlock along party lines would affirm the bigoted Commonwealth Court ruling and uphold Voter ID.  If Chief Justice Ron Castille rules with his Democratic colleagues (he did so on legislative reapportionment) instead of his fellow Republicans the law goes down and the right to vote is restored.  A federal court could issue an injuntion preventing Pennsylvania from enforcing the law November 6th.

Meanwhile delusional Secretary of State Carol Aichele is claiming that Voter ID will actually increase turnout.  How you do that by suppressing the vote is hysteria.  Perhaps she is eligible for mental health assistance.  Oh wait, those state services have been gutted by Gov. Corbett.  I suppose there’s no help available for her.  Maybe returning to Chester County where she has a history of suppressing the African-American vote on a much smaller scale will serve her better.