Smerconish: ‘Only a partisan opinion could sustain’ voter ID laws

Updated
 

By Michael Smerconish
Follow @smerconish 

Let me finish tonight with this.

The lead editorial of today’s Washington Post said that among the new, Republican backed voter ID laws, Pennsylvania’s is the “one with the most demonstrable partisan motivation.” Nevertheless, earlier this week, a state appellate court upheld the law which would require a photo ID for voting.  

Polls suggest voters approve voter ID measures, and they sound reasonable, except when you understand that many Pennsylvanians — perhaps close to one million voters — don’t have a form of the photo ID which is necessary.   

Who are they? Many urban, poor, minorities, who constitute the President’s core constituency. One estimate holds that 18 percent of Philadelphians lack principle form of ID. Democrats in the City enjoy a 6:1 registration edge.   

Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court acknowledged that the law might have a partisan motivation, but refused to stop it. Judge Simpson describes the requirement to show state-approved identification to vote as a “minor change” to the state Election Code.  

But it’s actually a major change. So what happens next? 

This matter now heads to the State Supreme Court which currently consists of six, rather than the customary seven, members. That’s because one justice was recently suspended after being criminally charged, leaving the court with three Republicans and three Democrats.

At the helm is the state Supreme Court Justice, Ron Castille. Castille is a Republican. He is a war hero who left a leg in Vietnam and has never felt compelled to tow a party line. That independence has spanned his career, and just eight months ago, it was Castille who distinguished himself in an otherwise partisan ruling when the State Supreme Court threw out a redistricted legislative map designed to benefit the GOP by a 4-3 vote.  

Many eyes are now shifting to Justice Castille to see whether he will stand in the way of this becoming Pennsylvania’s partisan equivalent of Bush v. Gore. In the healthcare debate, Chief Justice John Roberts did not want a repeat of that decision on his watch, choosing instead to underscore that we are a government of law, not men.   

Similar thinking might motivate Justice Castille. Where the Commonwealth entered into a stipulation acknowledging that there is not a single known case of the type of voter impersonation the new law seeks to preclude, and where by the state’s estimate, nearly one million voters lack the primary form of acceptable photo ID, it would seem that only a partisan opinion could sustain the new law. That’s a legacy I doubt Castille will embrace. 

Pennsylvania and Hardball Let Me Finish

Smerconish: 'Only a partisan opinion could sustain' voter ID laws

Updated