The Pennsylvania Supreme Court just issued a ruling on the state’s voter ID law saying that the matter should be kicked back to the lower Commonwealth Court for further review. That court refused civil rights lawyers an injunction on the law back in August.
The ruling states:
“Upon review, we find that the disconnect between what the Law prescribes and how it is being implemented has created a number of conceptual difficulties in addressing the legal issues raised. … 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 time-frame 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.”
This is neither an up or down, for or against decision from the state supreme court, rather an acknowledgment that there are still unresolved questions with the law that deserve further review from the lower court.
Professor Daniel Tokaji, an election law expert at Ohio State University, tells Colorlines.com that the Supreme Court’s ruling is a “prudent approach to a complicated problem.”
Says Tokaji: “This is a very practical ruling to deal with a thorny problem — the basic problem is that if something isn’t done then a lot of people will be kept from voting by this law because the process for getting ID is a complicated and challenging one. I actually think the court ruled in a restrained and appropriate way, by sending the matter back to the lower court to make a present assessment about how available the ID is for voters.”
Meaning Commonwealth Court judge will have to re-examine whether there is a significant burden for Pennsylvania voters in obtaining ID to vote. Read more about the Pa. Supreme Court voter ID case in our post: “The Racial Burdens Obscured by Voter ID Laws.”