PA judge rules voter ID law not too restrictive, then defeated plaintiff proves it

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Last week, opponents of voter ID laws — the easiest and most common-sense method to safeguard against identity theft at the ballot box — received a one-two punch in Pennsylvania that should put their crusade against the security measure down for the count.

On August 15, a Pennsylvania judge upheld the Commonwealth’s new law requiring one of a plethora of forms of identification — including a driver’s license, accredited school ID, government employee badge and a new voter-specific ID, among others — be used at a polling place to certify a voter is who they say they are.

The next day, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit got the ID she needed to vote despite the alleged hurdles her ACLU lawyers said stood in her way.

Viviette Applewhite took two public buses to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation office on her own. In its filing on her behalf, the ACLU insisted the elderly civil rights movement veteran whose purse was stolen years ago and lacks a birth certificate “has been unable to obtain photo identification required by Pennsylvania’s photo ID law” and “will no longer be able to vote.”

Yet a frayed, partially legible Medicare card and copies of correspondence from Pennsylvania’s welfare office and elsewhere was enough for the clerks to give Applewhite the ID she can use to vote in November.

The ACLU, planning to appeal the ruling, is unsure if Applewhite will remain a plaintiff. The answer seems obvious.

This episode should end all arguments that voter ID is voter suppression. Applewhite’s ability to easily get an ID card is a complete repudiation of the vicious campaign of deceit against voter ID that has seen ample plays of the race card (Applewhite is black) and the age card (she is 93 and uses a wheelchair), as well as the amplification of the left’s class-warfare strategy (she is poor).

Viviette Applewhite didn’t need an army of ACLU lawyers to secure her vote — but she could have used a ride. Therein lies the inherent irresponsibility of liberal voter ID complaints.

Liberals appear adept at registering people to vote. The NAACP, for instance, has a website dedicated to helping people register. Groups such as the Voter Participation Center are sending out absentee ballots to seemingly every mailing list they can find with such zeal that family pets are receiving VPC’s partially completed requests for ballots. Similar groups are devoting significant resources to educating potential voters about liberal candidates and issues. And there will undoubtedly be massive get-out-the-vote efforts in November.

Yet there never seems to be a point where potential voters are asked: “Do you know you need proper ID to vote? Can we help you get that ID?”

The ACLU has lawyers. The NAACP has lawyers. The Brennan Center for Justice and other groups against voter ID have lawyers who should be able to help those who think they may have trouble obtaining proper ID on a case-by-case basis.

In early August, I raised this issue in an e-mail exchange with an NAACP attorney. I asked him if his group provided individual legal assistance, financial aid or transportation to obtain IDs. His reply was that the NAACP “is involved in litigation and advocacy work challenging those restrictive and unnecessary laws.”

Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr., in his ruling, called the Pennsylvania law a “reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life.”

Do voter ID opponents want to keep people who don’t have photo IDs from entering the 21st century? More likely, they want an excuse. In 2000, liberals blamed their electoral loss on the design of certain ballots. In 2004, it was electronic voting machines made by a company owned by a Republican. With so many close races to be decided this November, it appears liberals are looking for a handy excuse to challenge their losses.

David W. Almasi is the executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank and parent organization of the Voter ID Task Force.

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