Pennsylvania Supreme Court Harshly Questions GOP-Backed Voter ID Law

The Pennslyvania Supreme Court gave a cold reception to the defenders of that presidential swing state's new GOP-passed voter ID law on Thursday, according to early press accounts, suggesting the new law might be struck down or suspended for the 2012 election.

According to ElectionLaw Blog, Supreme Court justices on both sides of the aisle were less rthan impressed with the law, which state election officials have said could mean upwards of half-a-million otherwise eligible voters would be barred from casting a ballot in November.

The Associated Press reported:

”Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court justices on Thursday aggressively questioned whether a politically charged law requiring photo identification from each voter should take effect for the Nov. 6 presidential election and whether it guarantees the right to vote….The six justices , three Republicans and three Democrats , saved their most aggressive questions for lawyers representing the state and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who signed the law in March. A couple exchanges became testy.”

The Huffington Post reported:

“Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican, questioned the state’s lawyers about whether the law guarantees that every registered voter will be able to get an ID, or at least cast a vote. Justice Debra Todd, a Democrat, flatly suggested the law is unconstitutional. Justice Seamus McCaffrey, also a Democrat, pushed the state’s lawyers to explain the Republican rationale used to pass the law and whether the Legislature deserves deference for its decision to pass a politically charged law that tramples the rights of citizens.”

Second guessing what Pennsylvania's high court will do is risky. At the lower court level, the opponents of the voter ID law put on what was considered to be one of the strongest voting rights cases seen thus far in 2012. And the state, in contrast, didn't even mount a defense other than saying the Legislatire has to the power to pass whatever laws it likes. However, the local judge, a Republican, adopted the state's view, saying he could not overule the Legislature.

Still, the prospect that upwards of 10 percent of the state's electorate might not be barred from voting in November--particularly in the big cities--is encouraging to voting rights advocates. If the new voter ID law is thrown out, then the state's previous voter ID standards would remain, which include state-issued IDs, bank statements, utility bills or paychecks.

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at September 13, 2012, 10:46am

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