Republicans played against type
At the end of the day, a very Republican attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election in Pennsylvania failed because of the very un-Republican way they went about it.
When Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued an injunction last week halting the requirement that voters present photo ID in the upcoming election, any attempt to suppress likely Obama voters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia was blunted.
As it was, the photo ID requirement would have disproportionately affected urban voters, older and poorer, who faced more hurdles in obtaining the required identification cards.
For Republicans, a conservative bunch that prides itself in its businesslike approach to government, the collapse of this gambit just weeks before the election is disappointing. But an even more bitter pill is the fact that this signature piece of political chicanery went off the tracks because it was implemented in a haphazard, chaotic and very unbusinesslike manner.
There was nothing predictably Republican, nothing solid and reliable, about this failure to dot all the i's and cross all the t's. The type of documentation that was required became a moving target, even running afoul of Homeland Security standards at one point, and the information provided to the public was vague and contradictory.
Because of this unpreparedness, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided to send the case back to Simpson after he initially denied the injunction. The justices, frustrating the cynics by not voting along party lines, instructed Simpson to stop the photo ID requirement if there was any evidence that legitimate voters would be denied their right to vote.
And that is exactly what Simpson found.
There will be more battles, this having been a preliminary skirmish, and the issue of voter ID itself, not just the inept manner in which it has been managed, will be debated.
Opponents will argue that voter impersonation at the polls, the only form of voter fraud that the law targets, is virtually nonexistent, proving that there is no need for the law.
But there are a lot of needless laws on the books, necessity not being a test for constitutionality. The hard facts are that if you have the votes, you can pass pretty much what you want if you do not run afoul of our constitutions.
And in tough economic times, when money is tight for education and health care for children and other human needs, it begs the question as to why sparse funds should be spent on something like this. But if you have the votes, you can ignore that, too.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
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