More on this later today, but as you've no doubt heard, a state Commonwealth Court has upheld the controversial Voter ID law. You can read the ruling for yourself here.
The short version: It's pretty much a disaster for the ACLU and those seeking to overturn the law. Judge Robert Simpson largely wrote off the plaintiffs' claims of hardship, dismissed their expert as biased. In a footnote, he suggested plaintiffs had "inflated" the number of voters who would be burdened by the requirements. (Simpson himself estimated that "somewhat more than 1 percent and significantly less than 9 percent" of voters likely lacked IDs.) He faulted the ACLU for presenting "speculation" about the potential for Election Day confusion, arguing that such arguments dealt with how the law might be applied, rather than how it was written -- the only thing he could judge. In any case, he wrote that he was "convinced" voter ID "will be implemented by the Commonwealth in a non-partisan, even-handed manner," and that state agencies "will fully educate the public."
That's not to say Simpson always found state witnesses credible. At one point, he asked Elections Bureau head Jonathan Marks how the state's work would be affected if he, or the Supreme Court, took action to interfere with the law. Marks' response:
I think ultimately in either circumstance, we would find a way to comply ... [I]t will make our communications with the counties a little more fast-paced more so than we would like, but I think ultimately we would pull it off.
In his ruling, Simpson called that answer "equivocal," and added "everyone in the courtroom could see his reaction: alarm, concern, and anxiety at the prospect of an injunction. His demeanor tells the story."
So on the rare occasion when Simpson didn't find a state witness entirely credible, it was to justify upholding the law.
The ACLU will be holding a press conference later today, and an appeal to the state Supreme Court seems inevitable. It also seems like a long-shot, since the Supreme Court would have to overrule Simpson by a 4-2 majority.
The state AFL-CIO, has released a new report on the ramifications of Pennsylvania's voter-ID bill. The finding: Senior citizens "are much less likely to possess a valid PennDOT ID than the overall population."
The AFL-CIO estimates that among voters 65 and over, more than one in eight may lack ID. And while the state's voter ID law allows nursing homes to issue IDs that can be used at polls, the AFL-CIO estimates that fewer than one-fifth of seniors would be helped by the provision.
Those of us in southwest PA have special reason to pay attention. A map compiled for the AFL-CIO report suggests that seniors in Allegheny, Washington, and Fayette counties are all especially at risk. (Contrast that with the apparently well-documented spring chickens in Westmoreland.)
This might be a good place for a caveat. While the state's early predictions about how many voters lack ID were certainly too low, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that some of the predictions being made by opponents are way too high. I mean, maybe Philadelphia is more fucked up than even I'm willing to give it credit for, but could 43 percent of voters there really lack ID? Not sure that passes the smell test. In a recent survey of 101 people the state said lacked photo ID, for example, the Philadelphia Inquirer found that roughly three-quarters had actually had it.
But then, I guess this is what happens when you pass a law to "solve" a "problem" that you don't bother to "study" first, because it may not actually "exist."