Friday, September 21, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #74 - Part 2

Update on PA voter ID law

I'm going to start with a couple of updates on things I've mentioned previously. It's a bit of yin-yang for you, some good news and some bad news. As always, when I can, I'll start with the good news.

I have been talking forever, it seems, more than a year anyway, about attempts by the right wing to restrict the franchise; that is, to make it harder for certain groups of people to vote - groups almost exclusively composed of people who are more likely to vote for liberal candidates than right wing ones.

As part of that, I talked about the voter ID law in Pennsylvania, one that threatened to block tens of thousands, even potentially several hundred thousand, registered voters from being able to cast a ballot because they didn't have the "right" kind of photo ID. The law was challenged in a suit, as part of which the plaintiffs - the people who sued - asked for a temporary injunction to block the law from going into effect while the case continued.

A few weeks ago, I noted that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson denied that motion, letting the law go into effect. I said at the time that the chances of the state Supreme Court overturning that ruling were slim.

The good news is that I was wrong. On September 18, in a 4-2 ruling, the Court vacated that ruling and returned the case to the lower court for "reconsideration." Importantly, the majority sent the case back with instructions that appeared to force Judge Simpson to issue that temporary injunction, which it called "the most judicious remedy." In fact, Judge Simpson was instructed "to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment" of ID cards to residents who don't have them meet the requirements of the law - which, the court itself made clear, they don't.

Significantly, the court stated that "We are not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials" that voters would not be disenfranchised by the law.

Simpson has until October 2 to issue a new ruling.

Here's the really good thing here, though: The two dissenters did not refuse to join with the majority because they agreed with Judge Simpson's original ruling but because they held that the Supreme Court should have issued the injunction itself rather than just sending the case back.

I would say the Pennsylvania voter photo ID law is toast. And that is good news.


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