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PA Judge Strikes Down Voter ID Law: Good News For CIR. By Roger Algase

Rating: 17 votes, 5.00 average.

This post is updated as of 10:00 am, January 19:

In an article which does not mention immigration but could have great significance for reform, The Guardian Reports that on January 17, a Pennsylvania state court judge struck down that state's restrictive voter ID law, one of the toughest in the nation. See, January 17 Pennsylvania judge strikes down restrictive voter eligibility law.

www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/17/pennsylvania-judge-strikes-down-voter-eligibility-law/

In his decision, Judge Bernard McGinley, according to The Guardian, wrote:

"Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the voter ID law does not further this goal."

He also stated:

"Disenfranchising voters through no fault of the voter himself is plainly unconstitutional."

The Guardian also comments:

"In one particularly damning section of his ruling, Judge McGinley found there was no evidence the legislation was even intended to stamp out voter fraud, which was the justification given by state lawmakers when they passed the law."

The Guardian also writes:

"The crux of the ruling was that Pennsylvania had failed to fulfill its promise of providing 'liberal access' to a photo identification that would be accepted at the ballot box."

Curiously, according to the same article, Judge McGinley stated in a footnote to his decision that there was no evidence that the purpose of the law was to disenfranchise minorities or likely Democratic voters.

No, of course not. How could anyone possibly think something so nasty and unfair about the white Republican legislators who rammed this bill through just before the 2012 election, one of whom, Mike Turzai, said publicly in June, 2012 that the only purpose of the law was to elect Romney as president?

(See Huffington Post Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania GOP House Majority Leader: Voter ID Will Allow Romney To Win State, updated 8/28/2012.)

The Guardian concludes its article by quoting Withold Walczak, representing Pennsylvania's ACLU branch as follows:

"When you look at it that way, the only fraud that is being perpetrated here in Pennsylvania is by the people who support this voter ID law."

What does this all have to do with immigration reform? The answer is: everything.

If there was any possible question about this, look at which party would now be in control of the House if there had been fair, non-gerrymandered elections for that chamber last year. It would not be the Republicans.

The Senate CIR bill would have been allowed to come to a floor vote in a Democratic-controlled House, would have easily passed (attracting at least some Republican votes as well, in all likelihood) and no doubt been on the president's desk by the end of June, 2013, where it would have been signed into law immediately.

Certainly that bill is full of imperfections, as many reform supporters have pointed out, but almost all of these negative features were adopted because of the need to gain Republican votes in the Senate.

If there is any one single issue that is critical to reform, and to the future of immigration in America, it is ensuring that US citizens of all backgrounds and demographic groups have equal access to the ballot box. The Pennsylvania ruling is a step forward in that direction.

But there are other states, including key battleground states such as North Carolina, which have similar laws. (See Huffington Post North Carolina GOP Official Who Called Blacks "Lazy" In Daily Show Voter ID Interview Resigns, 10/25/2013.)

We can expect the battle over these laws to become even fiercer as we get closer to the midterm election and the Tea Party white supremacists leave no stone unturned in their efforts to keep minority voters and other immigration supporters away from the polls.

Even in Pennsylvania, the fight for voter equality may not be over. The voter ID case could go to that state's Supreme Court for a final decision.

Meanwhile, the Congress is considering restoring the key part of the Voting Rights Act that was thrown out by the right wing bloc on the Supreme Court last year. However, concerning this proposal, The Guardian writes:

"However, its provisions relating to the contentious issue of voter ID requirements were significantly watered down in order to mollify Republican lawmakers, whose support is critical for the legislation to succeed."

While attention focuses on John Boehner's yet to be announced immigration reform "principles", which could well turn out to be little more than traditional GOP enforcement-only poison pills designed to mollify the Tea Party, rather than a serious basis for compromise with the Senate, immigration reform supporters should not ignore the underlying voting rights dynamic.

Or to put it more simply - no voting rights, no immigration reform.

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Updated 01-19-2014 at 10:21 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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