Pennsylvania’s contentious Voter ID law is in jeopardy based on a ruling made yesterday by the state’s Supreme Court. As ThinkProgress reports:
Today’s decision is not a victory against voter ID, yet. The state justices merely “return[ed] 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.” Nevertheless, the supreme court also 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.
Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair called today’s decision “a big step in the right direction.”
The Pennsylvania supreme court has three Republican and three Democratic justices. All three Republicans (and one of the Democrats) supported the ruling casting doubt on the constitutionality of the law, a law authored and pushed through by Republicans in a Republican controlled state legislature. The two dissenting voices were Democratic justices who argued that the law should be struck down entirely.
It now boils down to whether the same court that upheld the law last month will, under the guidance of the higher court, conclude that the system of issuing the “alternative identification cards” is able to accommodate all of the voters attempting to obtain them before the election. The Supreme Court’s concern is that “as implementation of the Law has proceeded, PennDOT – apparently for good reason – has refused to allow such liberal access.”
Although the standard fee for obtaining an ID has been waived for the new IDs, the list of required documents is still relatively extensive: a birth certificate with a raised seal (or a document considered to be an equivalent), a social security card, and two forms of documentation showing current residency. That’s not to mention the significant time it takes for voters to take off work, many of whom are paid by the hour or are seniors for whom making the trip may be difficult, and to wait in the often lengthy lines at PennDOT centers.
No one knows quite what will happen from here, but there is cautious optimism on the part of voting rights advocates.