Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama sounded a battle cry at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner when she said protecting the right to vote is the nation’s most important civil rights issue. If that were true, that would mean there no credible civil rights concerns in the country. What Obama was talking about was the effort by Democrats to prevent the implementation of laws requiring voters to present a photo ID when casting their ballots. The common sense measure has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans. They understand that cheating is baked into the DNA of our political parties and see nothing unreasonable about requiring someone to do the same thing as when they wish to board a plane, a train, open a bank account or buy a beer or a cigarette: prove they are who they say there are. Mrs. Obama’s attempt to demagogue this issue is the backdrop for false liberal arguments that voter ID legislation is the modern version of the Jim Crow laws of the segregation era. Those claims are currently being adjudicated in Pennsylvania, where a judge has until Tuesday to decide whether the state’s voter ID law should be thrown out.
In August, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr. threw out the challenge when he said that while he was sympathetic to those who claimed they had difficulty acquiring a photo ID, there was no proof of disenfranchisement. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now kicked the case back to him and hearings were again held this week to determine whether the state is acting appropriately. Though the state has loosened the already lenient requirements to get a state card, the judge hinted that he might give in to pressure from liberal groups and grant an injunction to block its implementation. If so, it will undermine attempts to ensure voter integrity.
Conspicuous by her absence from the second round in front of Judge Simpson was the lead plaintiff from the initial hearings back during the summer. At that time, opponents of voter ID heralded the participation in their suit of 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite, a woman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Ms. Applewhite didn’t have a birth certificate or a drivers license and might have been prevented from voting. But as I wrote last month, Ms. Applewhite subsequently undermined the voter ID challenge by strolling into a Department of Motor Vehicles office, explaining her problem and emerging a short while later proudly displaying her new state photo ID as a somewhat disappointed reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer looked on. The Inquirer had hoped to document the difficulties of getting an ID, but they had instead proved just how easy it was.
Ms. Applewhite incurred the wrath of her erstwhile leftist sympathizers for ditching them but she has been replaced with others with their own exceptional stories to engage the judge’s sympathy. No doubt, they have also been instructed to on no account use some common sense and do as Applewhite did and resolve their problem without the help of liberal lawyers with a political axe to grind.
At stake here is a the principle that voters ought to be able to verify they are who they say there as well as being residents of the district where they seek to cast their ballots, not to mention being citizens. As an elderly African-American like Ms. Applewhite proved, minorities and senior citizens are fully capable of dealing with this challenge and the state has shown it is ready to bend over backwards to help anyone who really wants to vote.
The vast majority of Americans, including most members of minority groups, have photo IDs. Those who don’t can get them free of charge from the state. Those without them can cast provisional ballots that will not be invalidated unless they cannot subsequently prove their identity. The idea that this uncomplicated law is a new version of “Jim Crow” drains that term of any meaning. Liberals have redefined “voting rights” to mean something different from what it did half a century ago. Then it meant depriving people of the right to vote on the basis of race. Now it means defending the right of any person who can’t prove their identities or citizenship to vote illegally. Mrs. Obama and the left have turned a sacred cause into a farce.