Our opinion: Benign idea, malignant motive

As the trial of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law wraps up, let us state for the record that we are not opposed to the idea of presenting personal identification prior to voting.

What we are opposed to, and what the Pennsylvania General Assembly is frequently guilty of, is the blatant manipulation of public policy and legislation for political gain. This statement covers both parties.

We have stated before in this space that the rush to get voter ID enacted just prior to the 2012 presidential election presented requirements with which the state bureaucracy was unable to cope.

One might believe pollyannishly that the legislature did its best to stand up rod-straight for the sanctity of the voting booth, and it was simply the misfortune of timing that prevented the measure from living up to its noble purpose. That is, the agencies charged with issuing identification cards specific to voting requirements couldn’t fine-tune the process in time to meet expectations. Given the questions that arose over real or perceived shortcomings, the courts put the law on hold until such time as the constitutional question could be answered.

Those chronically suspicious of the Pennsylvania General Assembly might believe the legislators waited until the 11th hour to ensure that the state bureaucracy would fail to come through for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who would be thus forced to go through the process of casting a provisional ballot and validating it later. Or, they might not vote at all in the resulting confusion. That, we believe, would be the most insidious form of gerrymandering.

After all, presidential elections are four years separated, giving lawmakers plenty of time to “fix” a system of voting that had been in place for more than two centuries and which hadn’t shown any evidence of widespread fraud to begin with.

We believe that ultimately the courts will find presenting proper identification prior to voting will not violate either the federal Voting Rights Act or the Pennsylvania Constitution, and Pennsylvanians will get used to reaching into their pockets or purses to pull a card when they vote.

But, when that happens, that latter group of chronically suspicious people will try to imagine what new scheme the party in power will pull just before the next election.

The exercise could make an entertaining parlor game.