And another one is yanked. One by one, punitive laws meant to depress minority voter turnout are being struck down or put on hold where they have been enacted – uniformly states where Republicans hold power.
The purpose of these laws has been clear – they are Jim Crow for the 21st century – and, strangely enough, nowhere was that made more clear than in the northern state of Pennsylvania, where a judge blocked the state’s voter ID law from taking effect in next month’s elections.
A leading Pennsylvania Republican boasted about the purposes of this law when it was passed earlier this year. The state’s new photo ID law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done,” said Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The fact is that there is no evidence of the kind of voter fraud that these measures are supposed to prevent – not in Pennsylvania, not anywhere else. These laws were plainly meant to depress the voting strength of the poor and minorities, since they are most likely not to have acceptable photo identification. In doing so, the laws give an edge to Republican candidates for office. It was as transparent as it was revolting.
A Pennsylvania judge put that state’s law on hold this week. Voters can be asked to show a photo ID, but won’t be prevented from voting if they don’t have one. Meanwhile, courts have blocked the laws in Texas and Wisconsin. A law in South Carolina is being challenged.
“Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened,” Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice told the New York Times. “It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws.”
Yes, it has been, but the work is not done. Pennsylvania’s law, one of the nation’s most restrictive, has merely been delayed and, unlike many Southern states, Pennsylvania is not bound by the oversight of the Voting Rights Act. This fight will continue for months or years to come.
Coincidentally, the Voting Rights Act is likely to come before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, and some justices have expressed doubts about its continuing need. They should ask the minorities in South Carolina, Texas and other states covered by the law before they make that decision.
The push for voter ID laws suggests that Jim Crow is alive, well and migrating north.