Little to gain: Corbett should quit on the state’s voter ID law

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is a stubborn man. Stubbornness can be a virtue in the pursuit of a good purpose, but that’s not the case with his administration’s decision to seek a reconsideration of a Commonwealth Court judge’s ruling that the state’s voter ID law is unconstitutional. That’s a tainted law being defended.

The law was arguably confirmed as odious when House Majority Leader Mike Turzai infamously declared that the Republican-backed legislation would enable GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to win the state, a suspicion about motivation that Democrats had harbored all along.

But the final blow was Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley’s recent ruling. It eviscerated whatever plausibility the law still contained. It pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people were effectively disenfranchised by the legislation. For one thing, about half of Pennsylvania did not have centers operating five days a week where voters could obtain photo ID. All this to correct a problem of which the commonwealth could not cite a single example.

Even so, in 39 pages of post-trial arguments from a team of private lawyers and the attorney general’s office, the defense argues for the law to be reinstated, the decision reversed or a new trial ordered. “The statute cannot be declared facially unconstitutional based solely on flaws found in the executive’s reading or administration of the statute,” the administration’s lawyers argued.

While that’s a matter for further adjudication, to our mind that line of reasoning is like arguing the zeppelins should be given an air-worthiness certificate after the Hindenburg has crashed in flames. Those weren’t just flaws Judge McGinley documented; they were terrible flaws. Besides, Judge McGinley’s opinion was, as he wrote, “premised upon the findings of fact and conclusions of law ...”

Even if the administration prevails, even if the flaws can be swabbed away at more government expense, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best. While the administration says it will ask the court not to require photo identification in the primary and general elections this year, the governor’s stubbornness on this mangy dog of a statute will be remembered by many voters — and maybe not kindly.


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