A Pennsylvania judge this week was correct to reject an ACLU challenge of its voter ID law, just as a Florida judge earlier this summer was correct to throw out parts of Florida’s new law on voter registration.
The difference between the cases is instructive and shows how voter fraud can be prevented without unduly hampering citizens or playing partisan politics.
The Pennsylvania law required a photo ID to vote — just as Florida does.
It is a reasonable, indeed, essential requirement. Without such identification it would be easy for someone to cast a phony vote.
Critics say this puts a burden on the elderly, who frequently give up their driver’s licenses. But as the Wall Street Journal points out, Pennsylvania also made it easier to get a state ID card for voting purposes and provides them free of charge. Beyond driver’s licenses, other eligible photo IDs in Pennsylvania are passports, military ID, federal government employee ID and college ID.
Florida’s superior ID law includes those cards as well as debit or credit cards, retirement center cards, neighborhood association IDs and public assistance IDs. Individuals who don’t drive also can get a Florida ID card from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
All these cards must have a photo and an expiration date, which allows poll workers to determine if they are still valid.
With such a wide range of options, no one can claim the photo ID mandate presents an unreasonable obstacle.
Similarly, identification for registering to vote in Florida is effective but not onerous. Citizens must provide a driver’s license or the last four numbers of their Social Security number.
If you don’t have a Social Security number, then you should have to do some explaining before you are allowed to vote.
These sensible identification safeguards contrast markedly with the disputed Florida voter registration law that seemed designed to discourage voters.
In response to a challenge by the Florida League of Women Voters, a U.S. district judge in June ordered an injunction against its provision that required third-party groups to submit voter-registration forms within 48 hours or face $1,000 in fines. The law previously had allowed 10 days.
The requirement seemed aimed at harassing the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and other Democrat-leaning groups that conduct voter registration campaigns.
Supporters said it was intended to prevent fraud, but they could provide no evidence fraud was commonplace.
That’s because existing identification laws provide strong protections against abuse.
Volunteer groups may occasionally turn in bogus names — Mickey Mouse or such — but the registration forms are not going to be approved and no one would be allowed to vote without the proper ID.
The 48-hour deadline and the tough penalties made voter registration, as the judge put it, “a risky business.”
Indeed, the League of Women Voters suspended its traditional voter registration drives, fearing a volunteer who missed the deadline would be hit with a hefty, punishing fine.
The judge also pointed out the law was so poorly written it did not make clear whether the 48 hours included the hours when elections offices are closed at night. It also made no provision for organizations that distribute voter-registration applications for individuals to send in the mail. When they are mailed is clearly beyond an organization’s control.
Florida’s flawed registration law did virtually nothing to protect against fraudulent votes while making it more difficult to register voters.
In contrast, sensible voter identification laws genuinely prevent fraud without arbitrary mandates.
Lawmakers should attend such distinctions with dealing with citizens’ vital right to vote.