Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have noticed that this is a presidential election year. If not, then you’ve missed constant coverage of every gaffe, stumble and subsequent accusation from the candidates and their parties. It can be exhausting to take in, but at the heart of all the nonsense lies the fact that elections are important, and we as citizens need to pay attention. We’re called on to exercise our inalienable right and responsibility – to make our voices heard by voting.
That is, if you CAN vote. This year, the powers that be in Harrisburg decided to try to solve the virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud by enacting a stringent Voter ID Law. The law required a government-issued identification to be shown at a voting place before a citizen would be allowed to vote. It sounds fine on paper, but the law effectively targeted disaffected minority groups who for a number of reasons might not have the proper access to acquire or necessity to possess a government ID.
For example, in Philadelphia, nearly one-fifth of the registered voters may not have an acceptable form of identification to vote on Election Day. The effect would be that of a modern day poll tax. The PA House Majority leader boasted that the effect of the law would be to hand all of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes to his preferred candidate. If you can’t beat them, disenfranchise them.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stepped in and remanded the controversial voter ID law back to the Commonwealth Court for review. The court wanted the lower court judge to “consider whether the procedures being used for deployment” of the voter ID cards, which have proved ineffective over the past several months, meet with the constitutional requirements of the state. If the Commonwealth judge believes there exists even the potential for disenfranchisement, under current rules, he should enjoin the law.
In other words, a state can’t push a law like this through before a presidential election when it can’t come up with a way to minimize the difficulty for citizens to participate by getting the proper ID. It’s a victory for voters’ rights advocates but a sad day for state officials who wanted to reduce voter turnout. So, I offer a couple suggestions on how the state can still achieve their goal of keeping those pesky voters at home:
Since the law was mostly going to affect racial minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics adversely and disproportionately, the state can send a Pantone strip of flesh toned colors to each voting station with visible directives, like signs that says “YOU MUST BE THIS WHITE TO VOTE.”
Passing a law that would have prevented voters from getting to the booths may not have actually worked as a barrier, so maybe actual physical barriers will work. Voting stations in several Philadelphia neighborhoods can be equipped with obstacles such as moats with alligators or walls with barbed wire. This way, only the most impassioned and physically able of voters will be able to prove his or her mettle and achieve the right to vote. Of course, if the voter has enough money, then he or she gains unfettered access to the polls.
Perhaps a good way to keep the elderly from voting would be to dispatch a state representative to their houses and convince them that they already voted. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you already voted.” If the elderly offer any resistance, just change the television to whatever channel is playing Judge Judy, and hope for the best.
In case you couldn’t tell, I think the PA Voter ID law is a travesty, and I hope it’s struck down. No law should result in such disproportionate harm to minorities, people with low incomes and/or senior citizens. The only bright side of this controversy is that it underscores how precious the right to vote is, and how easily it can be taken away.