The state of Pennsylvania’s ability to get every would-be voter a government-issued photo ID by Election Day will literally be on trial Tuesday. The hearing before Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson comes after the state Supreme Court last week instructed him to block a new law requiring ID at the polls unless he determines “that there will be no voter disenfranchisement” arising from its implementation. Opponents of the law have said the state can’t possibly prove that case, as the law’s entire reason for existence is precisely to make it harder for the poor, members of minority groups, students, and the elderly to cast their ballots, and in that way suppress the Democratic vote. Republican backers of the law have said it was intended to fight voter fraud. But in-person voter fraud — the only kind voter ID would reduce — is almost nonexistent.
Back in August, Simpson upheld the law — one of the strictest among similar bills recently passed by GOP legislatures around the country — ruling that it wasn’t unconstitutional in theory. But now the question is one of implementation, and whether the state is fulfilling its promise to educate voters about what they’ll need at the polls this year and get them the IDs they need if they don’t have them. Signs are that it isn’t. The main provider of photo IDs is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation — PennDOT. PennDOT has only issued a fraction of the IDs estimated to be necessary.