WITH ANY luck, Thursday could be a key day toward ending the nightmare of the voter-ID law, which has the potential to shut out many from the polls in the November election.
Commonwealth Court Judge Ronald Simpson has been ordered to rule on whether state officials were up to the task of providing new photo IDs to all who need them. In August, he upheld the law, rejecting the arguments that the law put too heavy a burden on potential voters. On appeal, the case went to the state Supreme Court. Last week, the higher court kicked it back down to Simpson; he must make a ruling by early next week.
According to a report in the Inquirer, in a hearing on Tuesday Simpson suggested that he is leaning toward issuing an injunction against the law. He instructed lawyers to make arguments at a hearing on Thursday as to what such an injunction might look like.
But nothing is certain. So we'd like to point out a few more arguments, just in case anyone, including Judge Simpson, doubts the difficulty required to get a new ID.
Exhibit A: Above is a ticket issued on Wednesday by PennDOT to a member of this editorial board who went to get ID. The key line on that ticket appears under the number 486: "Est. waiting time: 2 hours and 32 minutes."
Now, investing two hours in exchange for the right to exercise one's citizenship in a democracy may not seem too high a price to pay. Except, we believe that this particular democracy should be providing free and unfettered access to the voting booth. Our board member happens to have the freedom to wait more than two hours without her pay being docked. Most in this state cannot say the same thing.
It also speaks to the fact that with such a long wait, the staffing levels at PennDOT are hardly adequate to meet the demand of what some estimates put at 800,000 who need a new ID. And when we checked, in July, PennDOT had not hired any new employees, nor had any plans to.
Exhibit B: State Sen. Anthony Williams has just released some research results on voter activity in the April 24 primary, which was supposed to be a "trial run" of the voter-ID law. A Swarthmore researcher polled people exiting the polls. Key findings: Only 59 percent were asked for an ID. And only 59 percent had a driver's license; half of those age 60 and older did not have a license; 4 percent did not have any required forms of ID, and all of those were people of color.
Act 18, the voter-ID law, is badly conceived, and a logistical nightmare being rushed for no good reason. An injunction that halts the law for November's election is the only proper outcome.