by: Carrie Kaufman
The stories have been coming fast and furious lately. A judge upholds a voter ID law in one state. The secretary of state of another state (or is it the same state?) restricts early voting. The governor of another state asks counties to purge their voter rolls, before the Justice Department steps in and stops them. Or at least asks them to stop. And all of this is disproportionately hurting minorities.
What I hear is one big voter suppression story, and the details keep getting mixed up. So I made a few phone calls to straighten out just what is happening (as of this end of August, 2012 writing) in the various states regarding restricting voting rights.
This week and next, I’ll be putting up a state by state Summer 2012 Voting Rights Primer for swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin. Let’s start with…
Pennsylvania’s voter ID law went into affect in March of 2012, and is one of the strictest in the country. It’s modeled after the 2005 Indiana voter ID law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 by a 6 to 3 vote.
In order to vote in Pennsylvania, you must show up to the polls with a valid photo ID that includes an expiration date. It can include an ID that has expired within one year of election day, according to Rich Robinson of The Advancement Project.
Robinson’s group filed a lawsuit challenging the Pennsylvania ID law and were given a setback in an Aug. 12 decision. Judge Robert Simpson ruled that the law did not violate the state’s constitution. He ruled that no one has yet to be harmed by the law, so it can’t be challenged.
Simpson sees the lawsuits brought by the Advancement Project, the ACLU and other groups in Pennsylvania as a “facial” challenge to the law. They are, in essence, arguing that something bad might happen if this law is allowed to take effect.
That “facial” ruling is crucial, because that’s what was upheld in the Supreme Court decision on Indiana. As explained in an April 2008 story in the New York Times, “Justice Stevens and the two court members who joined him found that the Democrats and civil rights groups who attacked the law, seeking a declaration that it was unconstitutional on its face, had failed to meet the heavy burden required for such a ‘facial challenge’ to prevail.”
But the majority decision left room for cases in which someone could prove that harm was done.
That’s exactly what Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez thought she and her team had proven in court.
“In the real world, we have proof that people will be disenfranchised,” said Gonzalez, the director of the voter protection program at The Advancement Project. “When it comes to voting law, you should not have to wait for the disenfranchisement to happen.”
Gonzalez also argues that the state cannot possibly issue what she says are over 1 million IDs to people who don’t have them (and other estimates put at the 700,000 range) by Nov. 6. She and her fellow plaintiffs, which include the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters, have filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. As of the end of August, they have not heard anything about when or whether their appeal might be heard.
Nate Silver, the intrepid 538 blogger and numbers guru, seems to think that Pennsylvania will go to Obama regardless of turnout. The spread is 51 percent to 42 percent among likely voters. Even accounting for a million people being disenfranchised, Obama is likely to stay ahead.
Note: This was reposted with permission, you can find the original here, at the authors newest blog- Kaufman on America.