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Here's some overview of today's voter ID decision from Rick Hasen, the California-Irvine law prof whose book "The Voting Wars" is the Bible for voter ID opponents:

1. This is a careful opinion by a judge who struggled with the evidence and the law and, as I expected, issued a thoughtful, non-ideological and well-done decision.  I disagree with the decision’s bottom line (more on that below) but there is no doubt this is a judge acting in good faith applying the law and facts as he found them.

2. This decision is almost certain to stand. The case will go to the Pa. Supreme Court, which is currently divided 3-3 between Democrats and Republicans. On the merits and given deference to trial court preliminary injunction decisions, the state Justices are unlikely to break on party lines in this case. But even if they did, a 3-3 tie leaves the lower court opinion in place. I don’t expect there would be any fuller ruling on the merits in this case before November or that any such ruling would lead to a different result.

3. The PA court should be the last stop for this case, which raises only state law issues—no U.S. Supreme Court review.  While there is a chance that the U.S. Department of Justice would now try to get preliminary relief enjoining the use of the voter i.d. law in November infederal court raising a violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, I think that such a remedy would be unlikely to be granted at this time.

4. I am surprised by the ruling, mostly because the press reports made me think that Pa. officials were not ready to implement the law in time to actually get i.d.’s into the hands of people who need them. There were also concerns raised about whether local election officials would implement the law evenly and fairly. The judge, who was there (as I wasn’t) to judge the credibility of witnesses reached the conclusion that Pa. officials were ready, and in fact for most people it won’t be a great burden to get the i.d.

5. I disagree with the ruling on the merits on a couple of grounds.  First, the judge seemed to downplay the burden placed on voters needing to go out and get the voter i.d., such as the costs to poor voters of getting the underlying documents. While burdens on voters would be justified if the law actually served an important purpose, the fact that there is no evidence of impersonation voter fraud to justify a voter i.d.—a point which cannot be emphasized enough—the law would be imposing a burden on voters for no good reason.  And of course it is being imposed for a bad reason: these laws have been favored almost exclusively by Republican legislators likely out of the belief that it will cause a modest decline in Democratic turnout.  But the judge followed the lead of Crawford, and the blame should be with the Supreme Court and not with this judge.  Finally, the judge points to “as applied” challenges as the solution.  But these are expensive and difficult to bring—people who lack an i.d. are going to be among the least connected to the legal system, and there is no doubt that most of these voters will now fall through the cracks.  Again, if there were a solid reason for requiring the i.d., this cost would be more justifiable.  But there isn’t.  I put all of this in context in chapters 2 and 3 of The Voting Wars.

From Corbett administration:

“Now that the court has upheld the constitutionality of the law, we can continue to focus our attention on ensuring that every Pennsylvania citizen who wants to vote has the identification necessary to make sure their vote counts.’’

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, also issued a statement:

“I am pleased Judge Simpson affirmed the constitutionality of the voter ID law. This law will reinforce the principle of one person, one vote.  By giving us a reliable way to verify the identity of each voter, the voter ID law will enhance confidence in our elections.

“We will continue our outreach efforts to make sure all legal Pennsylvania voters know about the law, and know how to get a free ID to vote if needed.”

During a morning conference call about his trip to Silicon Valley, Corbett said he has not yet read the opinion and declined to predict what the state's top court may do:

"I never presume what the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is going to do. You can never predict what they're going to do. We believe that the law is constitutional. I have not had a chance to read the opinion that's been issued yet by Judge Simpson, but Judge Simpson has an excellent record and I think he would have given a well-thought out opinion and obviously I'm going to support that."

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, a major proponent of the new law:

Pennsylvania’s voter ID requirements will provide election officials with an important tool to detect not only incidents of impersonation fraud, but double voting, voting by non-citizens and voting under a fictitious registration. The new law’s absentee voter ID requirements will help to deter absentee ballot fraud.

“The integrity of each and every valid vote was upheld today. As the court said, the requirements of Act 18 will be implemented in a non-partisan, even-handed manner by Commonwealth agencies, and qualified voters will have their votes counted.

“The many election reforms enacted, including voter ID, are aimed to ensure citizens and registered voters have the right to vote and have their vote counted. It’s about one person, one vote, and each instance of fraud dilutes legitimate votes.

“It is unfortunate, but there has been a history of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

“The elections in the Commonwealth will be on a more level playing field thanks to voter ID and other recent election reforms.”

Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman Jim Burn:

Pennsylvania Democrats are committed to protecting Pennsylvanians' right to vote, and we will continue to educate voters about the new ID requirements and the process to acquire an appropriate ID to ensure that all eligible voters can get to the polls and exercise their right to vote in November. For months, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has implemented programs designed to ensure Pennsylvanians have the proper identification and we will continue our work as the legal process unfolds.

Jennifer Austin, Obama for America Pennsylvania press secretary:

“Regardless of today’s decision, we remain committed to working with supporters and volunteers across the state to register and educate Pennsylvanians about the Voter ID law. We want to ensure all eligible voters have the information they need to get to the polls in November and exercise their right to vote. Since the passage of the law our campaign has included information on the new provisions in volunteer trainings, information resources, online, and in voter registration and education activities, and we will continue to do so. Now more than ever it is important that the Commonwealth follow through on its plan to make available free IDs to any voter who may need them. Regardless of party affiliation, we support ensuring any voter eligible to cast a ballot has the right to do so.”


From state GOP chair Rob Gleason:

"Today is an important day for voters in the state of Pennsylvania as the Commonwealth Court's ruling protects the integrity of our electoral process at every level – city, state and federal. I applaud the Commonwealth Court for displaying courage and conviction in this ruling. With sensational headlines and half-truths about this legislation being touted by partisan critics, we are fortunate that the Commonwealth Court realized that the sanctity of our elections was at stake – and took appropriate action to protect a cherished right.

"The fear-mongering that has played out in recent weeks has been unconscionable and with this ruling, the will of the people is upheld. As evidenced by the Washington Post polling, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of this law. Truly, it is time to move forward. The Commonwealth Court rightfully recognized that this law is not about the outcome of a single election or limiting voter participation. Rather, it is about ensuring that all votes that are properly cast are counted. Voter disenfranchisement is only a risk if we don't turn our attention and efforts toward helping every voter in Pennsylvania comply with this new law. Regardless of partisan affiliation, the time for scare tactics and bickering is now over.

"Electoral integrity does not come from one piece of legislation and we must all continue to work together – Republicans and Democrats – to ensure that we protect this civic right. Voter ID, which has been passed by numerous states beyond Pennsylvania, is just one way in which we can do this. I am pleased that the Commonwealth Court recognized this law for what it is – commonsense reform to ensure that every voter and every vote is protected."

From state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills:

“The decision of the court is highly disturbing and disconcerting.  Without question, the goal of the voter ID law was to disenfranchise voters and suppress voting so that Republicans could gain the upper hand in this fall’s presidential election.

“This law was never about preventing voter fraud.  The state’s attorneys stipulated that there was no evidence of fraud and witness after witness presented details about the obstacles that they face in trying to comply with the law.

“Taking away a citizen’s right to vote and participate in a democracy is a serious matter.   No one who is eligible to vote should be prevented from casting their ballot.

“The right to vote deserves to be protected and participation should be secured not shredded.  That is why I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will step in and restore a person’s right to vote by overturning the ruling of Commonwealth Court.”

In his decision allowing Pa's voter ID bill to go forward -- in which he praised state agencies and throttled expert testimony brought by the ACLU -- Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson had some rough words for Mike Turzai's comments on the bill. See page 60:


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