The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 10, 2013

League of Women Voters' chapters lauded for work on voter ID


The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Pennsylvania’s voter identification law goes to trial next month, in part thanks to the work of the state chapters of the League of Women Voters for keeping the hot-button issue out front, a social justice expert told the group’s statewide convention Saturday in Lewisburg.

Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, credited the league’s work focusing attention on the consequences of the law, which is the subject of a lawsuit July 15 that challenges its constitutionality.

“The shortsightedness of people in the legislature can have an affect” on citizens in unexpected ways, she said.

For instance, retired military couldn’t use their official IDs to vote because they didn’t have an expiration date on them, said Susan Carty, a league member from the Chester chapter who is nominated for state president.

“Whatever goes on in July, the league had a huge impact,” Carty said of voter ID, noting nine amendments to such laws in various states were started by the group.

The league’s response is on such matters is “to work with the system, not shut down and walk away,” she said, but noted the lack of civility discussing the law — among other topics — “creates serious empathy” for those who may be disenfranchised by it.

Marks, who leads the Philadelphia-based non-profit group and watchdog of the state court system, also addressed reapportionment — redistributing members of in a legislative body — which she said has made for candidates “suddenly running in districts they didn’t plan on campaigning. Some sitting representatives may find themselves running against each other for a seat.”

Judicial selection reform is a key issue for Marks’ group, which promotes a merit selection and retention system over elections for Pennsylvania’s judges.

Two examples she cited: the “cash for kids” scandal in the Luzerne County in which judges took kickbacks from a private, for-profit juvenile detention center developer to fill the facilities; and former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who resigned after charges she used legislative and judicial staff to perform her campaign work.

“The role of a judge is to make a decision based on the facts of law, not the campaign trail,” she said. “The danger of an elected judge is that people think he is a politician. The way we select judges leads people to believe that a judge is just a politician in a robe.”