Pennsylvania high court to rule on massive vote suppression law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is hearing arguments today against the GOP’s voter suppression law that Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said “is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

Estimates are that the law will disenfranchise one in 10 eligible voters – mostly people of color, students, seniors and low-income voters.

As for the law’s impact on seniors, the Republican-leaning CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer became an unlikely opponent of the GOP on the voting rights issue when he twitted yesterday that his father is one of the 750,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania who does not have a state-issued ID card and will not be able to vote because of the voter ID law passed by Pennsylvania Republicans.

The Secretary of State’s decision to intervene personally and get the elder Kramer a state ID card leaves out the nearly 25 percent of seniors who have voted over the past 50 years and who will still be unable to vote this year.

The AFL-CIO’s My Vote, My Right website offers information on voter ID laws and steps to take to protect your right to vote.

The Pennsylvania law taken up by the Court today mirrors voter suppression laws GOP-controlled state legislatures have passed based on model legislation created by the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon Ragowski of Washington University, both experts on young and minority voter trends, have issued a study that calculates at least 700,000 minority voters under age 30 may be unable to vote this year because of the photo ID laws now in place around the country.

“Our estimates are conservative,” said Cohen. “We are looking at demobilization from 9 to 25 percent.”

Voting rights advocates are warning that the landmark Voting Rights Act itself is the ultimate target of the GOP’s voter suppression efforts.

“Rather than showing respect for the voting rights of minorities and winning their votes with appealing policies,” said William Yeomans, a former chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy in a Poltico article yesterday, “Republicans appear to have instead decided to try to expel them from the electorate.”

He noted that voting rights opponents are particularly interested in wiping out Section5 of the landmark voting rights measure.

“Section 5 was designed to address the insidious creativity of Jim Crow jurisdictions in coming up with ways to stay one step ahead of defenders of the 15th Amendment, the post-Civil Law amendment that prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

“Because Section 5 is successfully frustrating Republican efforts in covered states to shape the electorate by slicing off pockets of noncompliant minority voters, it looks as if Republican-led jurisdictions have now set their sights on eliminating Section 5.

Photo: DoubleSpeak Media // CC 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.