Where’s the Beef?

Ryan J. Reilly of TPM is reporting a remarkable bit of news from the latest ground zero of the war on voting, Pennsylvania:

As the Justice Department investigates Pennsylvania’s voter ID law on the federal level, a coalition of civil rights groups is gearing up for a state trial starting Wednesday examining whether the law is allowable under Pennsylvania’s constitution.

In that case, Pennsylvania might have handed those groups and their clients…a bit of an advantage: They’ve formally acknowledged that there’s been no reported in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and there isn’t likely to be in November.

The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges 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.”

Additionally, the agreement states Pennsylvania “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.”

So what’s the point of the new law, other than, as GOP legisative leader Mike Turzai has happily predicted, that it “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania”? An estimated 750,000 registered voters will potentially be affected by this law, having done nothing wrong that anyone can document. Yes, many middle-class voters can’t personally identify with people who go through life without driver’s licenses and a wallet full of credit cards and other forms of ID–but they exist in remarkably large numbers.

I don’t know how the State of Pennsylvania hopes to prevail in this lawsuit, but I do plan to echo its stipulations whenever vague allegations of widespread “voter fraud” pop up, as they eternally do, amongst the conservative chattering classes.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.