A victory for democracy
Judge Simpson's injunction against implementing the Voter I.D. law is a victory for participatory democracy. Registered voters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the birthplace of American democracy, will not be disenfranchised by the law - at least this year.
Under the law, a person without an I.D. on Election Day would submit a provisional ballot and have six days to produce the required I.D. for the vote to count. Judge Simpson's injunction prevents implementation of the provisional ballot piece. That means votes cast on Election Day will count regardless of whether the voter shows an I.D. to a poll worker.
Implementation a mess
Judge Simpson was reluctant to issue the injunction but the state Supreme Court left him little choice. After he approved the law a month ago and confidently predicted that the law would not disenfranchise anyone, the Supreme Court sent back the case with instructions, in effect, to prove his prediction or issue an injunction.
Just as in the first go-round, Judge Simpson then was presented with a parade of people who said they had no suitable I.D. and were having a difficult time obtaining one from PennDOT.
As if to prove the Supreme Court's suspicions about the potential for disenfranchisement, the Corbett administration made the latest in a series of sweeping changes to the process days after the justices sent the case back to Judge Simpson. Clearly, the administration knew as well as anyone that its implementation effort was a mess.
The heart of the matter
But implementation is a secondary issue. The law itself is an affront to participatory democracy that should be eliminated.
The law's proponents claimed, officially, that it was intended to combat vote fraud at the polls. Yet, they did not produce a single case of such fraud during legislative hearings and debates. And, in the original hearing before Judge Simpson, the Corbett administration acknowledged that there had been no in-person vote fraud.
Legislative leaders who championed the law revealed their real intent off the House floor.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai told the Republican State Committee that the law would be responsible for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carrying Pennsylvania. Clearly, he believed that it would preclude the votes of many people who tend to vote Democratic.
Rep. Darryl Metcalfe, the Butler County Republican who sponsored the law, sneered after the ruling that it was "skewed in favor of the lazy who refuse to exercise the necessary work ethic to meet the commonsense requirements to obtain an acceptable photo I.D."
In Mr. Metcalfe's view, his job is to erect barriers to voting against "the lazy" - otherwise known as some of the most vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Constitution precludes those barriers, and the Pennsylvania Constitution is even more emphatic in doing so. Neither requires "the necessary work ethic," also known as jumping through needless hoops, to exercise the fundamental right to vote.
The proceedings before Judge Simpson and the Supreme Court did not address the constitutionality of the law. A trial on that issue will occur later, beginning with a Dec. 13 conference of the parties with Judge Simpson.
State lawmakers should render that moot by repealing the law and, instead, establishing automatic registration, early voting and other measures to increase, rather than restrict, voting.