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Court clears Pennsylvania voter-suppression scheme

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) expects to stop thousands of his eligible constituents from voting this year.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) expects to stop thousands of his eligible constituents from voting this year.Getty Images

The case against Pennsylvania's dubious new voter-ID scheme seemed to be going pretty well. The state official responsible for overseeing Pennsylvania's elections process, for example, acknowledged in court, "I don't know what the law says." Asked to defend her claim that 99 percent of voters already have a valid form of ID, she couldn't.

Making matters worse, officials also conceded there's been no reported in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and there isn't likely to be in 2012, either.

But a court ruling this morning said none of this matters, and the Republicans' voter-suppression scheme can move forward.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said he wouldn't grant an injunction that would have halted the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID. Opponents are expected to file an appeal within a day or two to the state Supreme Court as the Nov. 6 presidential election looms.

The Republican-penned law – which passed over the objections of Democrats – has ignited a furious debate over voting rights as Pennsylvania is poised to play a key role in deciding the presidential contest in November. Opponents had asked Simpson to block the law from taking effect in this year's election as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality.

Republicans defend the law as necessary to protect the integrity of the election. But Democrats say the law will make it harder for the elderly, minorities, the poor and college students to vote, as part of a partisan scheme to help the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, beat Democratic Obama.

The Republican judge didn't rule on the merits; he refused to block the dubious law from taking effect as the larger legal challenge continues.

Attorneys challenging the law will take the matter to the state Supreme Court, but there's little reason for optimism -- the justices on the Pennsylvania high court bench are split between three Republicans and three Democrats, and a 3-3 ruling would leave today's decision intact.

Remember, one of the GOP policymakers responsible for creating this mess said the law was approved to "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." As of this morning, Republicans are one step closer to rigging democracy to make this goal a reality.

Also watch for widespread "chaos" in Pennsylvania voting. The state is somehow supposed to process the paperwork for hundreds of thousands of eligible voters who don't have the required ID over the course of a couple of months -- a task that's an unrealistic logistical nightmare.

All of this is necessary, state Republicans insist, to address a problem that doesn't exist. Welcome to GOP-brand democracy in the 21st century.