At the end of its three-week courtroom defense of Pennsylvania's flawed voter-identification law, the Corbett administration's best hopes have dwindled to convincing a judge that it's somehow OK to risk barring 89,000 registered voters from the polls.
Given such a flimsy legal case - and the startling prospect of disenfranchising so many voters - tossing the voter-ID law should be a slam-dunk.
The trial, set to wrap up today before Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley, revealed that the law could bar far more otherwise legal voters than Harrisburg election officials are willing to concede - all in the name of quashing a virtually nonexistent form of voter fraud.
The voters and advocacy groups challenging the law, including the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, provided a more compelling estimate than the commonwealth's. They believe the number of voters still lacking state-approved photo identification is as high as 1.2 million.
That group includes disproportionate numbers of minorities, many living in urban areas - typically Democratic strongholds. As critics of the voter-ID law have long predicted, the rules put in place by the Republican-controlled state legislature and Gov. Corbett promise to skew election returns in the GOP's favor.
The trial put a spotlight on state election officials' own doubts about the law. In-house memos revealed that Department of State staffers harbored substantial fears that large swaths of the electorate, including many elderly and disabled voters, might be unable to acquire acceptable identification. One of their proposed solutions was to grant all voters over 65 the right to vote by absentee ballot - further proof that, despite earlier tweaks supposedly designed to help voters obtain IDs, the law remains a threat to voting rights.
The trial also showed that voters trying to comply with the new photo-ID rules face a jury-rigged system. State driver-licensing centers, which issue nondriver ID cards as well, are distant from many voters and maintain limited hours. The added requirements that registered voters produce more documentation act as a further deterrent.
Given that the fraud at issue is a nonproblem - if not an excuse for an outright political ploy to target Democratic support - a mere inconvenience to voters justifies scrapping such ID laws. And Pennsylvania's law is far worse than an inconvenience.