Fixing what isn't broken

A stipulation filed in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's new voter-identification law ought to put to rest any doubt that the law is unnecessary. It ought to, but it won't.

The state of Pennsylvania, in a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs filed Tuesday, stated that 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."

In other words, it's not just that fraudulent voting is rare. It's virtually nonexistent.

So the Pennsylvania law, which requires every voter to display a state-approved photo identification, is officially a solution in search of a problem.

At the same time, a thorough study prepared for the civil-rights trial that began this week shows that the new law disproportionately affects women, minorities, young adults, the poor and the elderly — all but the last group more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. And yet supporters of the law continue to insist it is not intended to influence the outcome of elections.

Pennsylvania is not the only state to enact tough new requirements for voting. Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Georgia also passed laws. Wisconsin's law was struck down by a state courts as an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote.

It sounds so reasonable. Photo identification is required for many things: to get a library card, to cash a check, to board an airplane. Why not to vote?

If every eligible voter possessed such identification or could obtain it quickly and at no expense, it would not be an issue. But that is not the case.

A thorough study conducted in Pennsylvania found that nearly 1 million adults eligible to vote in that state do not have an accepted, non-expired ID. When those whose name does not precisely match their ID are added, the number without valid ID rises to 1.3 million — more than 14 percent of eligible voters.

If you live in Pennsylvania and don't have the necessary ID, you can get a free state-issued card — provided you can produce a Social Security card, an official birth certificate and two proofs of residency. Believe it or not, many people cannot comply with those requirements, for a variety of reasons, or it will take so long to obtain the necessary documents that those people will be unable to vote in the November presidential election.

It's hard enough to get people to vote without onerous restrictions. Making it more difficult will just mean fewer people will vote.

That ought to be unacceptable in a country founded on the principle of government by the people.

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