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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

July 13 (Bloomberg) — Other than the candidates, the most important person in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign so far might be the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, or maybe one of the Koch brothers.

But now it looks like it could be Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson. If he upholds a new Pennsylvania election law at the end of this month and the decision survives appeal, hundreds of thousands of voters, most of them Democrats, may be disenfranchised.

That, in turn, could put Pennsylvania, once considered a blue state, into the Romney column and swing the election.

The Pennsylvania story offers another example of the rank cynicism of those who favor democracy everywhere in the world except the U.S.

After I wrote last month about the Republicans’ well- orchestrated efforts to suppress Democratic voting around the country, I received many critical e-mails saying that people are required to have photo ID to get into buildings, cash checks and perform other daily tasks, so why not require photo ID to vote?

Fair enough, but what these critics don’t understand is that in states such as Pennsylvania, the kinds of photo ID valid for everyday tasks will no longer be good enough for voting. The goal of these laws isn’t matching names and faces to protect the integrity of the ballot box. The goal is to beat Democrats.

State Representative Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House majority leader, let the cat out of the bag at a Republican State Committee meeting about the party’s legislative accomplishments. “Voter ID — which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done,” he told the applauding crowd.

Lest you think the new Pennsylvania law is merely like gerrymandering congressional districts or the other shenanigans undertaken by both parties for political advantage, consider what happened next.

In the run-up to passage of the bill, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele promoted a study estimating that 99 percent of the state’s registered voters already have valid photo ID from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that would allow them to vote. In other words, the whole thing was no big deal.

It turned out that 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters — 758,000 people — did not have ID from PennDOT. Very big deal.