From the Derrick:
Corbett aide rebukes Justice Department over voter ID
HARRISBURG (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration is suggesting that a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into Pennsylvania’s tough, new voter identification law is politically motivated, outside of its authority and pointless because of court decisions that back up the law’s constitutionality.
In any case, the letter by Corbett’s top administration lawyer, James Schultz, dated Friday, makes it clear that the Republican administration has no intention on complying with the department’s request for a long list of documents. The request included the state’s voter registration list and any database of registered voters who lack a valid photo ID that the law requires each voter show before their ballot can be counted.
Schultz began the letter with a reference to the way President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice prosecuted complaints of voter intimidation by two New Black Panther Party members at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008 — a sore point among conservatives.
The exchange comes against a backdrop in which Obama’s fellow Democrats are decrying a wave of tougher voter identification laws taking effect in Republican-controlled states as throwbacks to the now-unconstitutional poll taxes and literacy tests once designed to discriminate against poor and minority voters. In the key swing state of Pennsylvania, they contend, the law is designed to prevent some of Obama’s supporters from voting and tilt the Nov. 6 election to Obama’s Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
With the department holding up similar laws in Texas and South Carolina, Schultz wrote that the department’s gaze is now on Pennsylvania simply because the state “instituted legislation designed to ensure the integrity of the voting process.”
“The Pennsylvania act and the commonwealth’s additional safeguards together ensure that no eligible voter will be denied a reasonable opportunity to obtain and submit the identification necessary to case a valid vote,” Schultz wrote.
The Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Corbett, a Republican, signed the GOP-penned law in March after it was opposed by every Democratic lawmaker.
Last week, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson rejected an effort to stop the law from taking effect Nov. 6. The plaintiffs did not show that “disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable,” Simpson wrote, adding that the state is taking appropriate steps to address problems people may have in getting a valid photo ID.
Both Simpson and Schultz pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision upholding a stricter voter identification law in Indiana.
Simpson’s decision is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Schultz called the Department of Justice’s July 23 request for information “unprecedented.”
“In light of the absence of authority for your request for information, I question whether your inquiry is truly motivated by a desire to assess compliance with federal voting rights law, or rather is fueled by political motivation,” Schultz wrote.
While the Corbett administration appears unwilling to compile the information requested by the Department of Justice, Schultz offered to share all of the documents the state’s lawyers produced to defend the legal challenge in the state’s courts — provided that department lawyers sign the same confidentiality agreements as lawyers who mounted the legal challenge.