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Postponement of voter ID law is righteous decision

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania halted the implementation of a new voter ID law in the midst of a lawsuit.

Judge Robert Simpson ruled on Tuesday to block the new measure from coming into effect before the 2012 election, citing concerns about unfairly excluding legally eligible voters from casting their ballots in November.

The voter ID law, which would require voters to present state-issued photo IDs in order to cast their ballots, was accused of voter disenfranchisement for poor minorities and the elderly.

Halting this measure is an excellent move by Judge Simpson, challenging the implementation of harsh standards intended to address a problem that doesn’t exist. Evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania has been scant at best, with state officials stating in a stipulation in July that there have been “no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.”

Contrast this with the estimated 1.36 million Pennsylvania residents that do not possess a valid photo ID, according to University of Washington associate professor Matt A. Barreto in an article on Philly.com, and the problem becomes evident. These individuals would be put through a time-consuming bureaucratic process if they wished to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The groups most likely affected by voter ID laws are inner-city minorities and the elderly. These demographics may have difficulty producing a birth certificate for their identification or getting transportation to a DMV in order to have their identity verified. In addition, members of these groups may not have the means or know-how to complete the bureaucratic application process for a state ID.

While voter fraud is a serious issue, the implementation of a new, complex voter ID system despite little to no recorded cases of fraud seems unnecessarily punitive, especially with the presidential election next month.

Preventing voter fraud is a noble goal, but it doesn’t require the immediate attention of Pennsylvania legislators.

Should an improved voter ID system be put into place, it should be announced prior to, not during, an election year, and should have more helpful mechanisms for individuals who need their identification verified.