“Look at the history of voter ID: A case cited to support Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law instead calls it into question”

Jessie Allen has written this oped in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  A snippet:

But Patterson is relevant in another way. It shows that a majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was once led to rationalize burdensome election procedures based on generalized and biased fears about fraudulent voting. That historic mistake should make the court hesitate to uphold another election law ostensibly aimed at preventing fraud when the state has offered no evidence that any such fraud has actually occurred.

Wrenched out of context, the legal language that the Commonwealth Court judge chose to quote from Patterson sounds like a fair basis for upholding the new voter ID law. But, in fact, the old Patterson case represents the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s shameful failure to protect elections from a law designed to make voting harder for some people than for others.

Dan Froomkin:

Simpson, in his ruling, quoted from the Patterson ruling, saying the discretion to establish voting requirements “belongs to the General Assembly, is a sound one, and cannot be reviewed by any other department of the government, except in a case of plain, palpable, and clear abuse of the power which actually infringes the rights of the electors.”

What he didn’t quote were the parts of the Patterson ruling warning that allowing Philadelphians to vote according to the same rules as the rest of the state would be “to place the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities, on a level with the virtuous and good man.”

A reader of the election law blog run by Rick Hasen, who is a University of California Irvine voting expert and author, also noted the bigoted aspects of the Patterson ruling last month.


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