Pennsylvania's highest court made it very clear they still have doubts about the state's restrictive voter identification law can be fairly implemented by election day, but their ruling stopped short of overruling it, asking a lower court to reconsider its decision to uphold the law. "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," the state's high court wrote in its decision (which can be found here) today. They added, "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 timeframe and an implementation process which has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch."
What all that legal-speak translates to is that Pennsylvania's highest court is fine with the intention of implementing voter-identification laws, but isn't confident that the process of getting people alternative forms of ID can be done fairly and smoothly in time for November's elections. That is why the law is going to be sent back down to the Commonwealth Court judge (who passed the decision in the first place) with instructions to review the case and instructions to answer whether people will have fair access to other forms of state-issued identification in time for November's election. If not, the lower court is "is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction." They also gave a deadline of Oct. 2. And, Bloomberg's Sophia Pearson writes, at least two justices felt that deadline was still too close to the election. Those two justices dissented with the decision and expressed that the high court should have filed an injunction itself — which could still happen since whatever the lower court decides can still be appealed back to the State Supreme Court.
If you recall, last month a judge upheld the state's voter-identification law which was supported by state Republicans and required voters to show a state-issued ID (with photo) before casting a ballot, and as Bloomberg notes, Pennsylvania is one of nine states that requires this. This being an election year and Pennsylvania being a swing-ish state with a big 20 electoral votes, and the 759,000 voters that this law might affect (who are mostly poor and elderly voters)--Democrats and voting-rights advocates are trying to keep the law from taking effect.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.