PA Supreme Court Orders Voter ID Law Review

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided on Tuesday that if voting IDs will not be readily available in time for the November 2012 election, the state’s new voter ID law cannot go into effect. The law, enacted in March, requires that every person must have a Department of Transportation (PennDOT) photo ID in order to vote in Pennsylvania. However, under the law, the state of Pennsylvania is supposed to provide alternative voter ID cards free of charge.

The court questioned whether voter ID’s are being provided in accordance with the law’s own mandates requiring easier guidelines for getting an ID. In the decision [PDF], the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated, “…as implementation of the Law has proceeded, PennDOT – apparently for good reason – has refused to allow such liberal access. Instead, the Department continues to vet applicants for Section 1510(b) cards through an identification process that Commonwealth officials appear to acknowledge is a rigorous one….The Department of State has realized, and the Commonwealth parties have candidly conceded, that the Law is not being implemented according to its terms.”

Tuesday’s state supreme court decision returns the case to the state’s lower Commonwealth Court to assess the extent that PennDOT voter ID’s are readily available. Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson refused to grant an injunction that would have stopped the new voter ID law from going into effect in August.

The decision also stated, “If the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election, that court is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.”

Media Resources: Pennsylvania Supreme Court 9/18/12; ThinkProgress 9/18/12; Feminist Newswire 8/15/12

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