In case you haven’t heard, an injunction was issued against the enforcement of PA’s Voter ID Law. This follows the PA Supreme Court punting the law back to a lower court. At this point the State has not indicated if it will appeal this verdict back to the Supreme Court, but it is within the realm of possibility.
While most of the ire has been directed at the Supreme Court (for good reason), or the House Majority Leader for his asinine comments on the law, a close look at the timeline surrounding passage of the law yields a more culpable party: The PA Senate.
The bill that ultimately became the voter ID law, HB 934, was passed by the House of Representatives on June 23rd 2011. However, it sat in the Senate State Government Committee from June 28th until December 12th. (From there it sat in the Senate Appropriation Committee until March 5th 2012.) Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.
Why is the timing relevant to our current predicament?
The law requires that a “dry-run” take place where election workers check ID, but allow people to cast ballots if they don’t have one. Hypothetically if the Senate had taken immediate action on the legislation, the dry-run would have happened during the November 2011 elections. The issuance of state voter ID’s and more importantly the legal challenges would have been accelerated by almost six months.
Today’s decision doesn’t vacate the law, only the timing. All of the legal and logistical challenges could have been cleared by our May primary, with the ID requirement intact for this November.
This begs the question, did the Republican Senate not believe that the Democrats and their allies would mount a legal challenge to the legislation? If that’s the case there are goldfish with more strategic foresight. At the very minimum every Republican member of the Senate should pick up a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, or at least read some of the more famous quotes. That way maybe they might be able to mount some sort of effective strategy in the future.
*Note: It is worth mentioning that the bill didn't gain any momentum in the Senate until the Majority Leader, a Republican, found himself on the receiving end of a primary challenge; funny how that works. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, also a Republican, was complicit in holding up passage and did a great job of reciting liberal talking points about why he opposed it.
Leo Knepper is the Executive Director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania. Any opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of his employer.