In upholding a law that could disenfranchise 9 percent of the state's population, Judge Simpson breaks new ground in belittling a fundamental American right.
In time, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board may come to rank with Bush v. Gore as among the worst recent decisions by the Supreme Court. That case has made possible the ongoing campaign to gut the right to vote.
Crawford is directly responsible for Wednesday's decision by Pennsylvania state judge Robert Simpson to allow that state's strict voter ID law to take effect. That law is all but certain to cause chaos at some polling places this fall. It may also, according to some credible estimates, disfranchise as many as 9 percent of the state's eligible voters. There's little secret about the purpose of the bill. As the state's Republican House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai, told a partisan audience in June, it "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
A state can't abridge important rights just because it feels like it.
None of these outcomes is certain, but what does seem certain is that some eligible voters in Pennysylvania will be unable to vote under the new rules. And all sides concede that there is no demonstrable need for the stricter ID rules. The bill's Republican sponsors originally raised the specter of voter fraud, but at trial the state conceded that there were no recorded reports of investigations into or prosecutions for voter impersonation on record anywhere in the state. Instead, the state argued that the law "improves the security and integrity of elections" because many other activities require government-issued ID as well.
This rationale is in essence empty. The government wants to impose a strict voter ID requirement because, well, it wants to. It's tidier. In some contexts where we require ID, such a justification is really fine. For example, requiring extensive documentation to obtain a cab driver's license is probably okay, even if there's no evidence of fraudulent cab-driving. That's because the right to a cab license isn't what constitutional lawyers call "fundamental."