Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tells Lower Court To Revisit Controversial Voter ID Ruling

A partial victory for voting rights activists as a lower court is told to look again at voter suppression issues.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sent a controversial lawsuit over the presidential swing state's strict new voter ID law back to a lower court, telling it to take another look at the impediments that voting rights activists have said may block hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters from getting a ballot in November.

Tuesday's ruling is a temporary victory for voting rights advocates, who sued the state and had argued that the preparations by Pennsylvania's state government to issue hundreds of thousands of new state ID cards--primarily to people who did not have driver's licenses in the state's cities and on college campuses--was flawed, clumsy and would interfere with the right to vote.

In its ruling, the state's Supreme Court agreed with this argument, telling a lower Commonwealth Court to take a second look at the state's preparations for issuing the newly required voter ID cards, and instructing it to pay closer attention to voting rights and issue a new ruling by Oct 2. 

The fight over Pennsylvania's new voter ID law is not over, but this is a big reversal for the state's GOP, which recently passed the ID law and where party leaders then bragged that it would help Romney to win the state in November.  

Here is an excerpt from the ruling, sending the case back to the lower court:

"Overall, we are confronted with an ambitious effort on the part of the General Assembly to bring the new identification procedure into effect within a relatively short timeframe and an implementation process which has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch. Given this state of affairs, we are not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials, even though we have no doubt they are proceeding in good faith.

"Thus, we will return the matter to the Commonwealth Court to make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification cards on a developed record in light of the experience since the time the cards became available. In this regard, the court is to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or 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.

"Accordingly, the order of the Commonwealth Court is VACATED, and the matter is returned to the Commonwealth Court for further proceedings consistent with this Order. The Commonwealth Court is to file its supplemental opinion on or before October 2, 2012. Any further appeals will be administered on an expedited basis."


AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at September 18, 2012, 11:03am

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