Friday night Michael Smerconish filled in for Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball, and in the ending segment, “Let Me Finish,” the radio and television personality took issue with Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law and Judge Robert Simpson’s decision – but said that another judge in the state could fix everything by voting his conscience.
That judge is state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille.
Smerconish began by commenting an editorial written by the Washington Post called “Catch-22 at the Pennsylvania ballot box,” that said among GOP-backed Voter ID laws, Pennsylvania’s is the one with the most demonstrable partisan motivation.
Smerconish said, “Nevertheless, earlier this week a state appellate court upheld the law which would require a photo ID for voting. Polls suggest that voters approve Voter ID measures, and they sound reasonable except when you understand that many Pennsylvanians – perhaps close to a million of them – don’t have the requisite form of photo ID to vote. Who are they? Many urban, poor minorities who constitute the president’s core constituency.”
Smerconish goes on to say what we already know – the group that will be more affected than most is Philadelphia voters – with one study placing the number of voters without ID as high as 18 percent.
“Democrats in the city, they enjoy a 6-1 registration edge,” Smerconish said. “Now, Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court acknowledged that the law might have a partisan motivation, but he refused to stop it.”
Smerconish said that while Simpson described the law as a minor change to the state’s election code, he believes the change was major
“So what happens next?,” he asked.
“This case now heads to the state Supreme Court, which currently consists of six – rather than the customary seven – members.”
The seventh member, Justice Jane Orie Melvin, was suspended in late May while she faces criminal charges. This leaves the court with an even split.
“At the helm (of the course) is the state Supreme Justice Ron Castille. Castille is a Republican. He’s also a war hero who left a leg in Vietnam who has never felt compelled to tow a party line.”
Smerconish said that Castille has been independent-minded his entire career, and pointed to the January decision by the Court when they remanded a redistricted state legislative map back to the reapportionment commission by a 4-to-3 vote, with Castille breaking for the Democrats.
“Many eyes are now shifting to Justice Castille, to see whether he will stand in the way of this becoming Pennsylvania’s partisan equivalent of Bush v. Gore,” Smerconish said.
This is where the comparison to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
“In the healthcare debate, Chief Justice John Roberts did not want a repeat of that (Bush v. Gore) on his watch – choosing instead to underscore that we’re a government of law and not men,” Smerconish said.
“Similar thinking might motivate Justice Castille.”
Smerconish added that during the Simpson hearing, the Commonwealth entered into a stipulation that prevented the state from arguing that voter fraud exists and is prevalent in Pennsylvania, and that Voter ID would prevent it.
Smerconish ended the segment by reminding viewers that the Commonwealth estimated that nearly 1 million voters lack acceptable ID and maybe could not get it in time for the election.
“It would seem only a partisan opinion could sustain the new law. That’s a legacy I doubt Ron Castille will embrace.”