The longtime Pennsylvania voters who have joined a rights group's lawsuit against Gov. Corbett's new voter-ID mandate put a face on the fight against a law whose only apparent purpose is to serve as a weapon in a Republican-inspired assault on open and fair elections.
In presenting their cases last week, these citizens clearly demonstrated that they will have a difficult time on Nov. 6 meeting the requirement that voters must produce government-issued photo identification at the polls.
Among them was one-time civil-rights marcher and wartime welder Viviette Applewhite, 93, who uses a wheelchair, lives in Philadelphia, has no driver's license, and has been unable to obtain the birth certificate required to get a state-issued ID.
Similarly, retired city schools employee Wilola Lee, 59, has been unable to get her birth certificate from Georgia, where she was born. That's the plight faced by many African Americans born in the formerly segregated South.
In Bucks County, non-driver Joyce Block, 89, has only been able to get a temporary ID from PennDot — and that took two trips to state offices, where she has been told that she'll also have to pay a fee to renew her credentials after a few years.
The three women are among 10 state residents who are plaintiffs in the challenge before Commonwealth Court with the American Civil Liberties Union, joined by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, and the Homeless Advocacy Project.
Looking at the plight of these voters, and thousands like them who face huge hurdles meeting the unprecedented photo-ID requirement, Commonwealth Court judges should have an easy time ruling that the voter ID law is unconstitutional and an affront to any sense of fair play.
In trying to exercise a fundamdental right, citizens should not be thwarted because they can't locate a birth certificate due to shoddy government recordkeeping. Nor should they have to jump through hoops, going to special expense and effort, to meet what in reality is a modern-day poll tax that will penalize mostly urban, minority, and elderly voters who also, most likely, happen to be Democrats.
While the Pennsylvania law should be tossed as an outrageous throwback to the poll taxes once levied to discourage voters, it's just as important to scuttle this pet project of conservative Republicans nationally. It's a waste of money, and completely unnecessary.
Billed as an antifraud measure by Corbett and the state's top elections official, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, the law targets the virtually nonexistent problem of voter-impersonation.
Across the board, voter fraud has not been shown to be a problem here or nationally. When election veterans look back at earlier eras when fraud was more widespread, they note that deception most often involved corrupt poll workers — not individual voters casting ballots for others.
Indeed, the ACLU argues the law must be tossed out precisely because it has no compelling state interest. By contrast, it will be in the national interest to prevent voter ID from snarling a pivotal presidential election.