Polemics aside, the merits of a photo identification requirement for voters are compelling.
The voter ID imbroglio swirling around Pennsylvania is the doing of sinister political posturing on both sides of the state's symbiotic and self-serving two-party monopoly. (Each party has its own agenda, but both work together to protect their monolithic power structure.)
Democratic politicians are ferociously opposing the requirement, which is disconcerting because traditionally that party's bosses relied on their "vote early and vote often" mantra since the days of Tammany Hall. (Serial voters come from the ranks of the downtrodden or the labor movement, almost always Democrats.)
Republican bosses could've constructed honest legislation and a valid system of implementation, but they preferred to simply disenfranchise thousands of voters not in their preferred demographic fold.
In the latest installment of the state's voter ID soap opera, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled Friday that the law enacted in 2012 "unreasonably burdens the right to vote" for many people.
Although I strongly support a meaningful identification requirement to vote, I cannot find fault with McGinley's ruling.
It observed that the law provides for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to issue non-driver identification cards, with no fee, but the applicant must prove who he or she is, including proof of residency somewhere.
The ruling also noted that a supplemental system, not stipulated in the law, arranged for the Pennsylvania Department of State to issue DOS ID cards, with less stringent proof, to be disseminated through PennDOT drivers licensing centers.
"The DOS ID is an ultra vires [done without proper authority] executive agency creation," a ruling appendix said.
If that fatal legal flaw was not enough, the very next page of the appendix cites the anecdote of a man in a wheelchair, suffering from cerebral palsy, who "spent nearly 31/2 hours at PennDOT … to get a free voter ID," and then was refused because of red tape.
That sort of problem, the ruling observed, is inevitable because there are only 71 PennDOT licensing centers to handle hundreds of thousands of people without drivers' licenses, and nine counties have no such centers at all. Nine other counties, including Carbon, have centers that are open only one day a week.
As for claims (by me and some Republican politicians) that a lack of a firm identification requirement lets people vote repeatedly just by going from polling place to polling place, the ruling said supporters of the Voter ID Law "wholly failed to show any evidence of in-person voter fraud."
That is correct, but only because voter fraud is not prosecuted. While Republican politicians running for district attorney may brag about being tough on crime, they do not run campaign commercials saying they cracked down on voters. And Democrats are not going to crack down, period.
As I pointed out in 2012, however, the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors program once found it had to reject "more than 200,000 applications for various reasons, most of which were duplicate registrations" — none of which ever resulted in a DA pursuing criminal charges.
If the Republicans want to make sure every voter votes only once, and is voting in his or her home polling place, they need to enact legislation that provides realistic ways for every Pennsylvanian to get a valid photo ID without a nightmarish hassle.
If every voter must be identified in a way that prevents people from registering to vote in six different polling places, and if it can be done in a reasonably efficient way, I can't see how the Democrats can gripe.
Personally, I do not think even an efficient voter ID system would go far enough. I think voters should be required to pass written examinations.
Such exams became obscene, especially in the South, when they were used to disenfranchise minorities, with whites exempted from taking them. Although that ended by the mid-1960s, look at the results of having no need to qualify voters at all. There is clear and convincing proof, just by looking at today's crop of elected bums, that too many imbeciles are allowed to vote.
My wife can vote only because she is a citizen, and she is a citizen only because she had to pass a fairly tough 55-question civics exam that I bet the average high school graduate born in America could not pass if his or her life depended on it.
Define the word "republic," asked one question. Others asked how many are in the U.S. House of Representatives, or who becomes president if both the president and vice president die at the same time, or how many amendments, exactly, does the U.S. Constitution have. And so forth.
Today we let people vote who have no idea what makes this nation tick, and we let them vote as often as they can find bogus ways to register in multiple voting districts.
A lack of universal suffrage is not our problem; a lack of enlightenment and electoral integrity is our problem.
If we can ever force politicians to fix that problem, maybe we can force them to erode their two-party monopoly by letting candidates who are neither Democrat or Republican get on a ballot.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays