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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Orders Further Review of Voter ID Law

by | Sep 18, 2012 | Firm News |

In March of this year, the Governor of Pennsylvania signed into law a Voter ID Law (“Law”) to take effect in time for the November General Election.  Since that time, litigation has been filed challenging the constitutionality of the Law under Pennsylvania’s Constitution and requesting preliminary injunctive relief.  The request for preliminary injunctive relief was denied by an order of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, and an appeal ensued.

The law generally requires the presentation of a photo identification card as a prerequisite to the casting of a ballot by most registered voters.  The law is purportedly written to establish a policy of liberal access to the necessary identification cards, however, opponents argue that is not the reality of the law’s implementation to date.

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision today, September 18, 2012, directing the Commonwealth Court to review its original decision.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the disconnect between the terms of the Law and the current implementation creates a difficult legal assessment.  Specifically, the Court noted that while the Law indicates it intends to provide liberal access to obtaining the necessary IDs now required for a person to vote, it was not clear that the Law actually accomplished this goal.  In fact, to date, only 9% of the State-estimated minimum number of necessary alternative IDs have been issued.  In light of these concerns, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court returned the matter to the Commonwealth Court for further assessment of the current implementation and whether it meets the terms of the Law regarding liberal access.  The Supreme Court further instructed that if the Commonwealth Court finds that implementation of the Law does not create liberal access to IDs, the Commonwealth Court was “obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.”  The Commonwealth Court is required to issue its supplemental ruling by October 2, 2012.

There are several states with Voter ID Laws currently pending review by courts prior to the November General Election.  These laws are significant to many citizens, especially to those citizens that are elderly, low-income, or transgender.  As such, we will continue to monitor the progress of these laws leading up to the General Election in November.

Read the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Opinion here.

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