Pennsylvania Voter I.D. Law In Doubt After Pa. Supreme Court Ruling

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sent the case challenging the legality of the state’s Voter I.D. law back to the trial court it came from, with instructions that case the immediate future of the law into question:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court cast serious doubt on the state’s voter ID law on Tuesday, ordering a lower court to rethink its decision upholding the law earlier this year.

In a 4-2 ruling, the justices ordered the lower court to block the law unless Pennsylvania can prove it is currently providing “liberal access” to photo identification cards and that there “will be no voter disenfranchisement” on Election Day.

The ruling said there was a “disconnect” between what the law prescribes and how it was actually being implemented. It said an “ambitious effort” to implement identification procedures in a short timeframe “has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch.”

While the court had “no doubt” state officials were “proceeding in good faith,” the justices in the majority said they were not satisfied making “a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials.”

But beyond simply punting the decision, the Supreme Court specifically said the lower court would be “obliged to enter a preliminary injunction” if there was convincing proof that voters would be disenfranchised in the upcoming election because of the law.

The lower court was told 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.”

The trial court must issue a ruling no later than October 2nd, so this is going to move fairly quickly at this point. Given the restrictions the Supreme Court placed on the trial court, I think it’s going to be very difficult for the trial court to avoid issuing an injunction here.

Here’s the opinion:

Applewhite et al v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Doug,

    Do you see anything in the Court’s instructions to the Lower Court that are obviously problematic legally?

  2. @Gromitt Gunn:

    Not really. And who’s going to overrule the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on a matter of state law? Nobody, that’s who.

  3. Commonist says:

    Hey cheaters.

    Suck it.

  4. Septimius says:

    This should be interesting considering that the opponents of the law have yet to produce one person that will be disenfranchised. Indeed, the lead plaintiff in the case; poor, elderly, disabled, minority Viviette Applewhite went down to the DMV and got her photo id the day after the judge’s initial ruling.

  5. Moosebreath says:

    I will add that the 2 dissenters (both Democrats) were the most vocal critics of the law at oral argument. I suspect they would have overruled the lower court, rather than just remanding.

  6. David M says:

    @Septimius:

    This should be interesting considering that the opponents of the law have yet to produce one person that will be disenfranchised.

    I’m pretty sure a large part of the case against the law is that it will end up effectively disenfranchising a large number of people on election day. The fact that it won’t disenfranchise everyone shouldn’t really be a winning argument.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    This should be interesting considering that the opponents of the law have yet to produce one person that will be disenfranchised.

    Perhaps proponents of the law could produce examples of voter fraud that make this law necessary…meanwhile, this bozo is going to have to find another way to achieve his goal…maybe he could wish upon a star or something…

  8. bill says:

    @David M: sure, yet here’s something that doesn’t warrant national news.

    http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2012/sep/05/state-representative-pleads-guilty-election-fraud/