Controversy over the Republican-backed Voter ID law, which would require all Pennsylvania voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls, has now come to a head, as Judge Robert E. Simpson has denied an attempt by civil rights groups to kill the bill before the November election.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of PA voters, argued that the new regulation would disenfranchise the elderly and disabled as well as young adults- voters who don’t always have a valid photo ID and tend to lean democratic. While Judge Simpson admitted that the plaintiffs succeeded in “putting a face” to those who might be affected by the bill, he maintained that, “…I do not have the luxury of deciding this issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses or my esteem for counsel.”
The ACLU plans to appeal the ruling within the next few days, taking the case to the State Supreme Court, where four justices will need to vote in favor in order to overturn Simpson’s decision. But this really isn’t a good indication that they’ll succeed, and regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, your lovely Auntie who lives in the Boonies or your vapid 18-year-old niece could both be turned away by a sweet old lady when it comes time to pull the lever.
Republicans and other backers are now pointing to all these fabulous outreach programs that will reportedly spread word of the new requirements. But this, I argue, is kind of bullshit.
The Department of State’s group, VotesPA, took to Facebook and Twitter this week, fielding questions and complaints from the public regarding voter registration and the new law. But, as others media outlets have pointed out, their effort is a bit off the mark.
As of today, VotesPA has a whopping 64 “likes” and 163 followers, which means they’re reaching a puny 227 Pennsylvanians compared to 8,755,588 who were registered to vote in 2008. But even if they managed to beef up those accounts, they’ll never be able to reach those who need to know about the law, i.e. people who either don’t use the internet much or those who live on/in a rural PA mountain but plan to emerge come November- sans proper ID.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington has also got in on this idea, developing a new “Election Protection” mobile app for smartphones that provides users with information on where to vote, where they are registered and the new ID regulation. But, again, people without a diver’s license usually don’t have smartphones, and unless an Apple Store spontaneously opens up in the middle a Pennsyltucky meadow and starts giving out free phone and bandwidth, voters who will be denied for not having ID are never going to get the message.
So, if this ruling isn’t overturned, we’re going to have to rely on the antiquated method of actual human contact. Call your grandma and tell her to make announcement during her next game of Bridge, then make sure your kids got their shit together and, finally, wheatpaste a local hospital or nursing home- it will be infinitely more effective than VotesPA.