Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pennsylvania's Restrictive Voter ID Law Suspended

While visiting my parents in Pennsylvania recently I saw a really offensive commercial. The ad showed a diverse group of people--white, black, young, old, Asian, male, female--holding up either a passport or a drivers' licence and saying "To vote in Pennsylvania, you need one of these." Some slick ad agency was making restrictive voter ID laws palatable, even reasonable by making it seem so easy to vote. In fact for those who do not have one of these forms of photo ID, it's been a bureaucratic nightmare. At least, according to several stories of elderly people who no longer drive, students, and minority people with no cars having to wait for hours to get their new cards from crowded PennDOT facilities with overworked and confused personnel.

Well, today that's all changed. A Pennsylvania judge ruled the law is temporarily suspended until after the general election. He didn't dispute the constitutionality of requiring a photo ID, but ruled that the state has not provided enough time to fairly implement it so there is not an undue burden on citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. I believe that after the election there will be a review and theoretically the state will have enough time and training to make sure everyone who wants to vote can without undue hassle.

This just happened this morning and I was in Planet Fitness in Manhattan where they have numerous huge TV screens with closed captions. As I hit the 30-minute express workout area (as I do maybe once a month), CNN and Fox News were on screens next to each other, so I could compare coverage of this breaking story. No MSNBC for some reason at Planet Fitness, only the major broadcast channels, Fox, and CNN. I will have to complain about that.

Anyway, the story broke and CNN devoted about 10-15 minutes to it with reports from their legal reporter and interviews with political strategists on how this might affect the president race (P.S. Romney was going to lose PA anyway in spite of what the Republican State Senate Leader said about delivering the state to Mittens thanks to Voter ID). Fox was covering two murder trials, a planned sky dive from space with neat photography, reports on how bad the security was at the American consulate in Benghazi and the White House is covering up its prior knowledge of it. The news of the PA decision was confined to a headline on the news crawl at the bottom of the screen. After CNN had finished with the story, Fox finally got around to it about 45 minutes later with an interview with their legal expert, a judge (apparently retired). During the interview, not once did they mention the difficulties PA voters where having getting their IDs and how the state was placing an undue burden on nondrivers by not being fully prepared to issue all the IDs that would be needed in a timely and fair manner. The interviewed judge explained that there might be a possibility that some voters might be denied their rights and the anchor did not follow up be asking "What about these stories of four-hour lines and untrained staff at the Penn. Dept. of Transportation?"

I should get to the gym more often so I can compare and contrast coverage of these issues. It would be even more interesting if MSNBC were in the Planet Fitness mix.

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