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.
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Last week, liberals were dealt a cruel blow when a Pennsylvania court refused to grant an injunction prohibiting the Keystone State from implementing its voter ID law in November. The opponents of the legislation, who alleged that hundreds of thousands of citizens would be prohibited from voting, failed to show why a clearly constitutional measure aimed at preserving the integrity of the process should be thrown out, sending the state election machinery into chaos. However, the opponents of voter ID did gain some sympathy with both the judge and the public by highlighting the plight of the lead plaintiff in the suit, 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite. Ms. Applewhite, who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr., didn’t have a valid photo ID or for some reason, a Social Security card, and the name on her birth certificate didn’t match the one on other documents so in theory she lacked the proof needed to get the free photo ID the state is offering to non-drivers who want to vote. Ms. Applewhite’s predicament seem to bolster the argument that voter ID was a new version of segregationist “Jim Crow” laws. That was enough to get her picture on the front page of the New York Times last week in an article intended to bolster voter ID opponents case.
But it turns out the state machinery for helping such exceptional cases is not, as Democrats claimed, devoted to suppressing the vote. Last week, Ms. Applewhite, accompanied by a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer showed up at Department of Motor Vehicles office in the city and asked for a photo ID. She got one with no fuss and without any evidence that the clerks there had any idea who she was (perhaps civil service employees are too busy there to read the Times or other newspapers). Ms. Applewhite was delighted and said it showed that all you need to succeed is “to just keep trying.” She’s right but her erstwhile sponsors were not so pleased as community activists challenging the law reacted with cynicism and disappointment to learn that their claim that the law was intended to arbitrarily prevent honest citizens from voting was effectively debunked. But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from continuing to cast aspersions on the law as racist and to pretend that there is no such thing as voter fraud, even in Philadelphia.
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