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A Most Basic Right

August 2, 2012
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Pennsylvania's new voter ID law is now in the hands of Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court, which is where its controversial journey should quickly come to a final resting place.

The law requiring a photo identification in order to vote come November has done nothing but spark confusion, dismay and suspicion since it was passed by the state legislature earlier this year.

It would likely discourage voting among countless Pennsylvanians who would find it too difficult to comply with -- or even understand -- the ever-changing requirements.

Among those most likely to be affected are minorities, the disadvantaged and senior citizens, including Jewish seniors, who have a hard time getting around.

Few, if any, cases of fraud have been documented, the ostensible reason for the legislation in the first place. And according to state officials, an estimated 758,000 registered voters -- nearly 10 percent of the electorate -- lack the necessary paperwork to vote. In Philadelphia, the number is 187,000, or 18 percent of registered voters.

Those behind the legislation have made this a partisan issue. Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzi's public acknowledgement that the law was passed to help the GOP's chances of carrying the state in the presidential election has become Exhibit A in the legal battle to get the legislation overturned on constitutional grounds.

This is going to be a hard-fought race, with the outcome in Pennsylvania potentially key to who will occupy the White House for the next four years. There shouldn't be any suspicion about the winner.

Be it Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, let him win on his merits and his ability to persuade the voters, not because of some politically motivated restrictions that could cast aspersion on the credibility of his win.

Ideally, the law should be thrown out, but at the very least, the court should impose an injunction, delaying implementation to provide adequate time to sort out the confusion and enable all potential voters to acquire the necessary credentials.

It is no accident that Jews have the highest percentage of voter turnout of any ethnic group. Given our history, we understand the importance of being fully engaged in the political process.

For these reasons, Jews have long been at the forefront of promoting voter registration and voter turnout among all Americans, at times risking and losing lives to defend such freedoms.

Regardless of our political affiliation, we Jews as a minority have a responsibility to vigorously fight for that most basic democratic right for all. Protecting the right of all citizens to vote should continue to be a high Jewish priority.

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