Sep. 21st, 2012

realthog: (Default)

In most democratic societies, deliberate vote suppression is a crime; there's little effective difference between vote suppression, ballot stuffing, and just burning the votes placed for the candidate you don't like.

In the US, for reasons I cannot fathom, vote suppression seems to be regarded as perfectly legal -- even in instances, such as the current one in Pennsylvania (shame on that great state), where the declared aim of the electoral purge is to win the state for Romney.

It's the kind of crap that doesn't go down well in Uzbekistan or Belorussia, yet apparently it's good enough for the US.

Earlier this year, the defenders of democracy took the ruling of the state of Pennsylvania's Republican legislature to court, only to be told by a Republican-appointed judge that there was nothing wrong with the practice because it could not be proven the rule would disenfranchise people.

In fact, most calculations show it's likely to disenfranchise as many as three-quarters of a million people.

The excuse for the vote suppression is that it's to minimize voter fraud (where people vote twice, or vote under a false name, or vote when they're not entitled to), depicted by Republican legislators, Republican pundits and FOX News as a major problem.

Is it? A few days ago the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania Supreme Court, while not insisting the measure be instantly repealed and the damage redressed pronto, merely threw the decision back at the original no problemo Republican-appointed judge with instructions to reconsider his reasoning.

This was despite the fact that, in addressing the issue of voter fraud, the Supremes found as follows (my emboldening):

The Commonwealth stipulated[:]
1. There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states;
2. The parties are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in-person voter fraud elsewhere;
3. [The Commonwealth] will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania or elsewhere . . .

In other words, so far as anyone can reasonably determine, there's no evidence that Pennsylvania has suffered one single instance of voter fraud.

Two of the Supreme Court judges, to their infinite credit, recognized that merely batting the decision back down the ladder was in itself anti-democratic. Their dissent, penned by Madame Justice Todd, is worth reading:

The majority correctly sets forth the standard of review that we, as the appellate court, are to apply in reviewing a lower court's order granting or denying a preliminary injunction. We review for an abuse of discretion. Yet, the majority utterly fails to apply that standard to this appeal. My application of the required standard leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the lower court indeed abused its discretion in failing to find that irreparable harm of constitutional magnitude — the disenfranchisement of a substantial number of eligible, qualified, registered voters, many of whom have been proudly voting for decades — was likely to occur based on the present structure, timing, and implementation of Act 18; in my assessment, the lower court should have granted a preliminary injunction. Therefore, I would reverse.

Like the majority, I am not “satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials.” But, unlike the majority, I have heard enough about the Commonwealth's scramble to meet this law's requirements. There is ample evidence of disarray in the record, and I would not allow chaos to beget chaos. The stated underpinnings of Act 18 — election integrity and voter confidence — are undermined, not advanced, by this Court's chosen course. Seven weeks before an election, the voters are entitled to know the rules.

By remanding to the Commonwealth Court, at this late date, and at this most critical civic moment, in my view, this Court abdicates its duty to emphatically decide a legal controversy vitally important to the citizens of this Commonwealth. The eyes of the nation are upon us, and this Court has chosen to punt rather than to act. I will have no part of it.

Mr. Justice McCaffery joins this dissenting statement.

March 2013

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