Monday, August 20, 2012

Keystone Kopout

I'm back, but only on a limited basis for now, since I still feel a bit spent from all that blogging about the Olympics.  And the recent shenanigans in Pennsylvania over the Republican-endorsed voter identification law there have forced me to speak out . . .. 
Last week, Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican in the Pennsylvania court system, heard compelling evidence against the law that demonstrated how poor people, many of whom are black, would be disproportionally affected by it - by having little or no access to a valid ID under its provisions.  Simpson, though, still refused to stop the law from taking effect.  In fairness to Simpson, it was not his job to rule against the effects of the law so much as to rule whether it was constitutional.  Simpson felt he had no alternative but to rule that it was, and despite the fact that he's a Republican, and despite the fact that I find his decision nauseating (because just because a law is constitutional doesn't mean it's right), I feel compelled to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Because American jurisprudence is rife with examples of laws upheld by judges who personally found them repellent but couldn't find a legal basis for stopping them.  
Be that as it may, the ruling still smells like an evasion of judicial responsibility . . . or maybe it just plain smells.  And so, the ruling has left the law's opponents with two short-term choices - comply with the law and work to help poor people get photo IDs, or get it overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in time for the election.  Although neither choice seems realistic - compliance alone would be so fraught with bureaucratic red tape that it may be difficult if not impossible to secure valid photo IDs for everyone who wants one - voting rights advocates in Pennsylvania are quickly moving to pursue both courses of action.  With Judge Simpson having suggested that the law can be fairly applied, Pennsylvania Democrats are going to go ahead and comply with it in an effort to shore up their base even as they appeal Simpson's decision.  They're hoping, possibly against hope, that the evenly divided state Supreme Court (three Republicans, thee Democrats) will see things their way.  One of the plaintiffs in the case, a 93-year-old black woman from Philadelphia named Vivette Applewhite, offered hope in the former strategy; she got a voter ID card after considerable persistence.  It's a start, and one can only hope that other possibly disenfranchised voters can follow her lead.     
Incidentally, as if the rest of the world didn't have enough reason to believe that American commitment to democracy and fair play is a fraud, there are rumblings about how the so-called international community would take a pretty dim view of the U.S. as a beacon of morality and justice if Mitt Romney became our forty-fifth President because a few people in Pennsylvania and other states (but mostly Pennsylvania, whose voter ID law is the toughest in the nation) weren't allowed to vote.  Now, I've mentioned my support for the idea of staging the Olympics in Philadelphia.  If Romney gets in and wins Pennsylvania, the Big Scrapple might want to think twice about going forward with such a scheme.           

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