Last Friday's decision by a Commonwealth Court judge declaring the Pennsylvania Voter ID law unconstitutional has been painted by its opponents as a victory against attempts to disenfranchise voters who have no reason or need to obtain a state-issued ID for anything.
Proponents of the bill continue to cite the potential for fraud, despite the number of actual vote fraud cases being much less than even the reported numbers of citizens who may actually not possess a form of government-issued ID.
Conservative blowhard Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) got his own bully pulpit on Philly talk radio (no one closer to home wants him on?) to denounce Judge Bernard McGinley's ruling as "activist" and sounding off on the possible inability and unwillingness of the Corbett administration to put forth a challenge to the reversal so late in the Governor's term.
Mr. Metcalfe sounded almost as if there were little chance that Gov. Corbett would get a second term to address this. Sounds pretty ominous coming from Republican, even one on the fringe.
When it comes to Voter ID, I don't place a great deal of faith in the arguments put forth by either side. Yes, I believe there are people out there who function in society without the benefit of a state-issued ID. Are there enough of them to build a bloc of fraudsters sufficient to sway an election? I doubt it greatly.
For better or worse in this country, the need for identification to function as a member of "normal" society (whatever that means) generally requires some form of government issued identification. As generations age, that will doubtless become a more pervasive fact of life across all age and socio-economic groups, barring some kind of consumer/citizen upheaval resisting it.
Rep. Metcalfe and his cohorts in the GOP think that with this type of ubiquity of identification, the time is ripe to try to dissuade free spirits, the independent elderly, the poor, and others from voting without what the ACLU and others denounce as a "papers please" approach to exercising our most fundamental right as citizens. One of the most revealing quotes for me came from Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair, who stated:
“This ruling is a victory for all those who believe that in a democracy, elections should be free, fair and accessible to all people”.
Well, if you want that in a place like Pennsylvania, there's a lot more work to be done.
Eventually, the GOP or someone else will attempt to revisit the ID issue. When they do, this ruling will hopefully go a long way to assuring that there are some election-related trade-offs to the ID requirement considered as well. Items such as:
Regional Vote Centers - With the advent of computer-based electronic voting, is there any reason why citizens can't vote at convenient locations around the various counties, with their own electronic ballot for their specific municipality and/or precinct?
Early Voting - Why must all voting be conducted on Election Day? There has to be a good reason other than to make sure we are exposed to as much negativity in the media as humanly possible.
Mail-Only Elections - For election years where there are no major statewide or presidential elections, conduct the entire election by mail.
All of these ideas are in place and working in Colorado, the only other state in this country that I have lived. Colorado has an ID requirement for those voting in person, but accepts many different forms of non-government issued identification and documents to establish identity for the purposes of voting.
The argument will immediately be put forward that changing the constitution in Pennsylvania, where some of these changes would likely require an amendment or two, is a cumbersome and lengthy process. That's a real shame for all of us who were, and continue to be, attracted to a different manner of living and being a citizen of the U.S., or came here from somewhere where it made more sense.
Perhaps when our political system is really interested in making fundamental, meaningful change in the manner in which Pennsylvanians choose the government that serves them, we can start taking pride in that government again.
Until then, pay attention, and have a good week ahead.
The opinions expressed in this weblog are solely my own as an individual and private citizen, and do not represent the opinion or policy of my family, my employer, or any other private or public entity.