By Brad Friedman on 7/24/2012, 3:47pm PT  

Last night we offered some very encouraging news about an apparent federal challenge, in the works by the U.S. Dept of Justice, against the state of Pennsylvania's disenfranchising, GOP-enacted, polling place Photo ID restriction law. Today's news is even more encouraging!

The Commonwealth of PA and the plaintiffs in the state challenge to the law have filed a remarkable one-page, 6-point stipulation [PDF] in advance of the trial in that case which is set to begin tomorrow.

The stipulation agrees, in plain language, that there has never been a known case of in-person voter fraud --- the only type of voter fraud that can even possibly be deterred by such restrictions --- in the history of the Keystone State, or even in other states, for that matter...


Petitioners and Respondents, by and through their undersigned counsel, hereby stipulate as follows:

1. There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states;

2. The parties are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere;

3. Respondents will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania or elsewhere;
5. Respondents will not offer any evidence or argument that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absence of the Photo ID law.

I don't think it can be stated any plainer. The GOP's polling place Photo ID restriction, which they have passed under the guise that it is needed to prevent "voter fraud", is, itself, a fraud.

Of course, we've been arguing this point for some time (going on 10 years, in fact). In state after state where these laws have been passed by Republican legislatures and signed by Republican governors on the basis that they are needed to curb "voter fraud", the proponents of the laws in every state have been unable to offer even a single historical case of voter fraud in their state which would have been prevented by these measures.

In other words, these laws are not meant to curb "voter fraud", they are meant to curb voting --- specifically, by people who don't have the type of state-issued Photo ID required under these new laws. In the case of PA, that amounts to some 750,000 legally eligible voters, by the state's own numbers --- more voters than Obama won the state by in 2008. The voters most effected by these laws, as study after study have shown for years, are far and away more Democratic-leaning than Republican.

That's the entire story on these purposely disenfranchising voter suppression laws. Period. Always has been, always will be. That, despite the unforgivably poor reporting by many in the corporate mainstream media suggesting there is some legitimate reason to enact these laws. There isn't. There never has been. And it is that poor reporting which has allowed the GOP to keep this issue alive, as if it is anything but a blatant attempt to suppress the Democratic-leaning vote...

Last night, I detailed news of the U.S. Dept of Justice finally probing the discriminatory impact of the GOP's polling place Photo ID restrictions in PA.

As I explained, the new federal effort is verysignificant, in that it's the first time the DoJ has signaled they may bring a legal challenge to such a law under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). That part of the landmark federal law presents a more difficult burden of proof for the federal government than cases where they have blocked similar laws in the recent past under Section 5. In Section 5 cases, the burden is on the 16 states (or parts of states) which are covered by that section of the law, due to their history of racial discrimination, to prove that their new election laws do not have a discriminatory effect.

We have, for some time, been calling on the DoJ to bring Section 2 challenges in states where the GOP has imposed disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions, but where the jurisdictions are not those required to receive preclearance for such new laws under Section 5 of the VRA.

Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Kansas are just a few such states where Section 2 federal challenges ought to be brought immediately to ensure that all eligible voters who wish to vote are able to do so this November. So, for the moment, we see the DoJ's actions taken to date in PA to be a positive, if long overdue, sign that they are finally taking this stuff seriously in practice, not just in words. We'll be happier still when they take similar action in some of the other states which are not so key to an Obama re-election victory this November.

In the meantime, it has been left to local civil rights groups to bring challenges in such states. Tomorrow, the ACLU's challenge to PA's Photo ID restriction, arguing that it violates the state constitution --- as The BRAD BLOG detailed last May --- gets under way. Our colleague, Ari Berman at The Nation, offers a preview of that case today:

Tomorrow the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania will hear a challenge to the state’s new voter ID law from the ACLU and other voting rights groups. The lead plaintiff is Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old great-great grandmother who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite worked as a hotel housekeeper and never had a driver’s license. Four years ago, her purse was stolen and she lost her Social Security card. Because she was adopted and married twice, she cannot obtain the documents needed to comply with the state’s voter ID law. After voting in every election for the past fifty years, she will lose the right to vote this November.

The ACLU will argue that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law needlessly disenfranchises voters like Applewhite and violates Article I, Section 5, of the state constitution, which states: “Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.” As in Wisconsin, where two federal judges have blocked that state’s voter ID law, the Pennsylvania Constitution affords strong protections to the right to vote.

We offered more on the lead plaintiff Applewhite, including an interview with her, right here.

Given the remarkable stipulation now entered into evidence --- essentially concurring that polling place Photo ID restrictions are nothing more than a "solution" in search of a "problem" --- it's difficult to imagine how the Pennsylvania law can stand up to any legitimate legal scrutiny, whether at the state or federal level, when, clearly, it stands to disenfranchise legal voters, for no known, legitimate governmental interest.

[Hat-tip Ryan Reilly at TPM.]

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