With Pennsylvania's uproarious court battle over voter photo identification coming to a head, another court battle over the electoral process, probably more significant, may be overlooked.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Thursday to listen to what the foes (mainly Democrats) of the new state photo ID law have to say. Then the law's supporters (the state's executive branch, Republicans all) will have eight days to respond.
The hearings are on an appeal of a Commonwealth Court ruling on Aug. 15, upholding the law, which requires most voters to have a valid photo ID, such as a driver's license, passport, special ID card issued by the state, military ID card, student card, or even a nursing home ID card.
Democrats say the requirement is a sinister scheme by the GOP to disenfranchise those most likely to lack a driver's license or similar identification — the poor, the struggling, the elderly, the ailing, etc., who often happen to be Democrats.
Republicans point to the Democratic Party's long history of fudging elections with fraudulent voting, dating to the Tammany Hall corruption of the 1800s.
I have sided with the Republicans on the photo ID issue, although I think that party's supporters have given the nation its vilest electoral depravity in other areas, with scummy billionaires financing gigantic advertising onslaughts of political mendacity.
I'll get back to the photo ID flap, but that other issue, involving Pennsylvania's two-party monopoly, was discussed in a story on page 11 of The Morning Call on Thursday. Commonwealth Court, the story said, will have a hearing on the Libertarian Party's effort to keep its presidential candidate on the state ballot in November. (I call myself a libertarian, not capitalized, but I am not a member of that party.)
The Libertarian candidate is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who has been largely ignored by the news media.
Both major parties, however, are scared out of their wits by third-party movements, especially the Libertarians and Johnson, famous for balanced budgets and surpluses, for getting bureaucracies under control (he got rid of 1,200 useless state employees), and for rebuilding New Mexico's roads while avoiding any tax increases.
He also is a colorful character, having climbed Mount Everest, and he likes to ride bicycles and ski (so he can't be all bad).
If Johnson is on a ballot, and if the news media ever starts covering him, a good showing would rattle the cages of the entrenched two-party establishment.
In reality, the two major parties do not spend all their time fighting each other. Most of their efforts are aimed at keeping incumbents in office with gerrymandering and preserving the two-party monopoly, which serves, respectively, wealthy or powerful special interests and no one else.
If you don't believe it, consider the law concocted by the bosses of those two parties, in bed with each other. It requires third-party candidates to get tens of thousands of nominating signatures to get a presidential candidate on a statewide ballot.
The law also stipulates the number of signatures that each "proper party" (meaning Democrats and Republicans) needs. "President of the United States: Two thousand," it says.
In the current court case, Libertarians rounded up around stacks of signatures, but 38,000 of them were challenged by three Republican Party puppets, who managed to get rulings against 17,000 on technicalities.
That meant the Libertarian Party still needed another 20,000 or so to keep Johnson on the ballot, based on a percentage of the total statewide votes case in the last statewide election, as required by the state Election Code.
Not all legislators think that's fair. State Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, introduced legislation to make the nominating requirements similar for any political party. Co-sponsors include two Lehigh Valley senators, Democrat Lisa Boscola and Republican Pat Browne, but the measure was promptly buried in committee last year.
So if those three puppet challengers win in Commonwealth Court, the rest of Pennsylvania's voters will get their usual take-it-or-leave-it choices.
Even if Johnson gets on the ballot, it will be an uphill battle for him if most of the news media continue to pretend the Libertarian Party does not exist.
Getting back to voter ID, there are many arguments on either side, but a main point made by Democrats is that the photo ID solution addresses a problem that does not exist. Almost nobody has been prosecuted in Pennsylvania for fraudulent voting.
I agree that nobody gets prosecuted, but that does not mean there is no fraud. A few years ago, for example, after the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors had been in operation for a while, Commonwealth Secretary Pedro Cortes (a Democrat, by the way) announced some results.
SURE's program to curb voter fraud, his office said, "has rejected more than 200,000 applications for various reasons, most of which were duplicate registrations."
That, it seems to me, indicates somebody was voting more than once, and it makes the howls of righteous indignation about disenfranchisement sound disingenuous.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.