A state lawmaker wants to take a two-prong approach to overturning Pennsylvania's voter ID law.
This week the suit challenging the constitutionality of that law goes to Commonwealth Court, but State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) doesn't want to risk the chance that it will be upheld, so Leach has introduced legislation to repeal the controversial law that opponents say will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters.
The commonwealth's Department of State has admitted that about one in ten registered voters do not have a driver's license. The new law requires that a license or some other certified photo ID be presented in November when people go to vote.
Leach is pleased that leading up to this week's court arguments that the state has stipulated that it can't offer any evidence of voter fraud in the past [PDF].
"The stipulation says that the state is 'not aware of' any incidents of voter impersonation, which the voter ID law is allegedly designed to address, and that the state is not prepared to present any evidence in support of the existence of such fraud," Leach said.
The senator added that the only remaining justification for the law is to prevent future incidents of fraud.
"Any law that impacts voting is subjected to the strictest scrutiny," Leach said. "The only way a judge can uphold this law under a strict scrutiny test is if he really wants to. There's no other way to uphold the law with such an obvious impact on a fundamental right and so little gain."
But he's not counting on a court victory for opponents of voter ID. Leach's bill would repeal that law and would double the penalty for voter fraud from the current five years up to ten years in prison. He said no one is for fraud but the "non-existent issue should be addressed in the appropriate way," said Leach, "which is increasing the penalties, not telling one out of four black people in Pennsylvania that 'you can't vote this year.'"