Shameful order: The state's justices ignore the threat to voter rights

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The state Supreme Court failed the people of Pennsylvania Tuesday. A majority of the court timidly and illogically decided not to decide the much-anticipated case on the voter ID law. Instead, it sent the case back to Commonwealth Court for further review.

That court was where Judge Robert Simpson last month did not believe that Act 18 would do any harm and refused to stop its implementation on constitutional grounds. But the Supreme Court clearly believes disenfranchisement is likely to take place.

"The Department of State has realized, and the Commonwealth parties have candidly conceded, that the law is not being implemented according to its terms ... ," the high court's unsigned order says. "Furthermore, both state agencies involved appreciate that some registered voters have been and will be unable to comply with the requirements maintained by PennDOT to obtain an identification card ... ."

What's more, the court knows whom this will affect: "... the population involved includes members of some of the most vulnerable segments of our society (the elderly, disabled members of our community, and the financially disadvantaged)."

The argument now is not whether it's constitutional to ask voters for ID (it is), but can the law be implemented fairly (probably not). Indeed, the court admits that the "most judicious remedy" would be to grant a preliminary injunction, as the law's foes seek.

Instead, in defiance of its own logic, the Supreme Court sends the case back to Commonwealth Court to determine if the remedial measures being taken by state officials on an expedited process will fix the problem -- and never mind that the same court found no problem a month ago before those measures could take effect.

Two sharply worded dissents by Justice Debra McCloskey Todd and Justice Seamus McCaffery underscore the brazen folly of the court's opinion. Justice Todd wrote that 49 days before a presidential election, despite "impending near certain loss of voting rights," the majority permits the commonwealth "to virtually ignore the election clock and try once again to defend its inexplicable need to rush this law into application by Nov. 6."

Actually, it is explicable. In the absence of voter fraud, this law is all about Republicans seeking partisan advantage. Shame on the Supreme Court for balking at its duty to protect our right to vote, despite recognizing the threat. If voters are disenfranchised, its shame will be double.

opinion_editorials


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