The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is sending signals that the photo ID law passed by the state legislature is likely to be struck down. A lower court upheld the constitutionality of the law, but the high court vacated that ruling and remanded the case back, with orders for the state to show how — if — they can avoid disfranchising any voters in the process the law created.
The Supreme Court ordered per curiam—meaning unsigned by the six justices—that the Commonwealth Court must re-examine the implementation of certain provisions of the law. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who ruled in August in favor of the law, must decide if the way the state presently administers free photo voter ID cards to those who can’t get regular state-issued id cards is in compliance with the law—something the state already conceded in court that it doesn’t, and can’t for good reasons…
But the important thing about the higher court’s ruling, as Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak told reporters yesterday, is that civil rights lawyers no longer have to show and prove that the law is burdensome. Instead, the state has to prove the law’s current implementation won’t lead to disenfranchisement of any voters. Meaning the numbers that have been flung around about whether 100,000 or 1 million voters don’t have ID are now hardly relevant—if one voter will be disenfranchised, then the law can’t stand for November.
Says the court’s order: “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.”
“They left very little room here for the trial judge to do anything but enjoin the ID requirement,” says Allen. “[Simpson] has to determine without relying just on assurances from the government that no voters will be disenfranchised, which is a tough determination to make.”
Some of you may remember Vic Walczak. He was the ACLU attorney who worked on the Dover case in 2005, along with Richard Katske of Americans United, Eric Rothschild and many other attorneys from Pepper Hamilton.