Pennsylvania Supreme Court sends voter ID law back to lower court

2:58 PM, Sep 18, 2012   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today sent the state's controversial new voter ID law back to a lower court for a speedy hearing on how the state could implement its provisions to make an approved ID available to all voters, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The new law was passed along purely partisan lines by the Republican-controlled legislature. It calls for all voters to show a form of photo ID at the polls starting with the November elections.

Proponents say it will protect the integrity of voting in Pennsylvania, while opponents argue that it is designed to disenfranchise a large number of voters, particularly among the poor and the elderly.

READ: The court's full decision

The impact of the high court's decision is not immediately clear, although the wording indicates some concern over whether the state has enough time to provide IDs for those who need them.

ThinkProgress Justice posted this key excerpt from the ruling:

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.

Think Progress says the ruling "makes clear that the lower court must suspend the law if '"liberal access' to voter ID is not ensured, or if voter disenfranchisement will result in the 2012 election.

The Patriot-News reports that the court's 4-2 ruling obliges the Commonwealth Court to block the law from taking effect Nov. 6 if the court is unconvinced about whether any voters will be disenfranchised by it.

One of the dissenters, Justice Debra Todd, who indicated she would have granted an injunction against the law outright, wrote, "Seven weeks before an election, voters are entitled to know the rules ... The eyes of the nation are upon us and this court has chosen to punt rather than to act. I will have no part of it."

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