A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and other advocacy groups is right to challenge Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill March 14 after it passed the GOP-controlled state legislature over the objections of Democrats, the NAACP, the AARP, labor unions and other groups.
The lawsuit warns of widespread disenfranchisement becoming evident on Election Day, when voters who don’t know about the law or didn’t read its fine print realize too late that they don’t have valid ID and don’t have time to get one.
The lawsuit also challenges the notion advanced by the law’s supporters that the photo ID requirement is necessary to combat voter fraud and, that the law’s provisions are broad enough to ensure that everyone who needs a photo ID to vote will be able to get one.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include three women who were born in Southern states and were told by their birth states that there is no record of their births, which could make it difficult for them to obtain proper identification in order to vote.
The new law violates the state constitution’s “free and equal elections clause and another clause that establishes qualifications to vote in Pennsylvania,” said the lawsuit, which also seeks an injunction that halts the enforcement of the law.
This new law is unnecessary and could result in large-scale disenfranchisement of many Pennsylvania voters.
Supporters of the law have not produced evidence of any significant voter fraud in Pennsylvania. The law also appears to be a politically motivated attempt to defeat President Obama in the Nov. 6 election in a key swing state.
While we support the lawsuit, we also realize it has an uphill battle. Of the nine-member Commonwealth Court, seven are Republicans and two are Democrats.
The best response to the new voter ID law is to fight it in the courts and to educate voters about it so they can exercise their constitutional right to vote.
This is why the Tribune will be using our pages in a voter education campaign to inform our readers about how to comply with the new law while it is being fought in the courts. The voter education campaign will continue until Nov. 6. We encourage elected officials, clergy, community leaders and others to inform voters on what they need to do to ensure that on Election Day they show an accepted form of photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Under the new law the approved types of photo ID include:
A current Pennsylvania driver’s license or one that expired after November 2011;
A current non-driver Pennsylvania photo ID card issued by PennDOT or one that expired after November 2011;
A current U.S. passport;
A U.S. military or Pennsylvania Guard photo ID (but the fine print in the new law says that if your ID doesn’t have a specific expiration date, it must include “a designation that the expiration date is indefinite.” Department of Veterans Affairs IDs do not qualify for voting.