Maybe I’m missing it, but I’d love to see evidence of real pushback in PA outside a courtroom. I know the governor and his cronies and the Romney bundler they hired to do voter education are a lost cause, but we saw county election officials advocate on behalf of voters this year in Florida, and that can be powerful.
Demand accommodations. Ask for administrative rule changes that can go in without a change in the state law. If the state government won’t protect the right to vote and courts are dithering and punting, what about trying county-level action or pressure from mayors and large public entities like universities? Everyone in the state has an interest in NOT having a massive failure of the election system resulting in tens of thousands of provisional ballots, which seems to be where this is headed barring judicial action. Ohio had a dispute over provisional ballots that went on for more than a year. It was litigated in both the state and federal systems. Imagine that times 100 races.
Everyone in the state has an interest in avoiding a sad mess, particularly in local races which can be so close. If these efforts are already being made in PA and I just don’t know about it, I’d love to hear what they’re doing while waiting for the judges.
And then many of you sent me this!
Lehigh and Northampton counties may join Allegheny County in taking advantage of a loophole in the state’s voter ID lawthat allows them to issue legally acceptable photo identification to the general public through county-run nursing homes.
Such a plan is “under serious consideration” in Lehigh County said Frank Kane, chief of staff to County Executive Bill Hansell. County officials are watching how Allegheny County’s ID program fares.
Northampton County Executive John Stoffa said he will consult county Registrar Dee Rumsey to see what it would take to issue IDs through the country-run nursing home. In some ways, he said, the county is the ideal institution to issue identification because it has plenty of records to verify voters’ residences.
“It wouldn’t be a perfect system,” Stoffa said, “but it would be better than nothing.”
Better than nothing. Governor Corbett is failing to administer elections properly. He’s failing at a core state duty. That means county-level people have to ACT and do his job. Pennsylvania will now have a situation where access to a ballot is easier or more difficult depending on the county one lives in. That’s a failure of state government, but it was foreseeable that this would happen, because it happened in Ohio and it happened in Florida. Conservatives at the state level have now reached the point where they are so in thrall to their lunatic base that they cannot perform basic state government functions, like running an election.
I love voting rights volunteers but I don’t want to get too far away from the idea that a fundamental role of the state is to administer elections competently. We can’t turn voting rights over to campaigns and volunteers. Those who are charged with administering elections have a duty to serve voters. That’s what we’re paying them for.
Volunteers have been flooding into offices set up by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, some even traveling from out of state. Their motivation? They want to combat a new law rammed through the state Legislature by Republicans that asks all voters to show government-issued ID at the polls.
“It’s really lit a fire under a lot of people,” said Mark Nicastre, communications director for the state Democratic Party. “We’ve been very lucky to get probably three times the number of volunteers that we otherwise would have seen, and somewhere around six times the number of contributions.”
Republicans say new state laws that shorten early-voting periods, make it harder for third-party groups to register voters, or require voters to show photo ID at the polls are nothing more than reasonable precautions against voter fraud. But to Democrats, the laws are GOP attempts to make it more difficult for young people, minorities, and the elderly to cast their ballot—or, in other words, attempts to suppress the vote and sway the election.
In key states like Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio, new election laws pose a logistical challenge for Democrats but also offer political payoff: galvanized activists and a feeling that Republicans have unfairly targeted certain communities.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats and civil-rights groups have been contacting voters that may lack identification and driving citizens to government offices that issue the approved identification. “I think it’s actually going to drive up voter participation because of the legwork the Obama campaign, state organized labor, church groups, the NAACP and the state party—what we’re all doing,” said Jason Henry, campaign manager for state Senate candidate Kimberly Villella.
This is great, too. When voter suppression efforts make The Simpsons, concern about voting rights is officially mainstream. It took seven years, but we got there.