In a 4-2 decision issued yesterday, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court vacated a lower court’s ruling that would have allowed the state’s controversial voter ID law to go into effect for this November’s elections.
The ruling, which sent the case back to the lower Commonwealth Court for further consideration, is not the end of the legal fight over Pennsylvania’s Voter ID laws, but the decision is being celebrated as an important step in the right direction.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling raised serious questions about the bill’s impact on voters. Going forward, the case will likely deal more with the way Pennsylvania’s voter identification law is being implemented in the lead-up to the election than with the constitutionality of voter identification generally.
The court instructed the lower court to file a supplemental opinion by October 2 and indicated that any further appeals would be dealt with on an expedited basis:
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 experience since the time the cards became available. In this regard, the court is to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election, the court is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.
As the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs David Gersch told the Nation, “That’s a very tough burden to meet.”
While the case is far from over, the instruction that the lower court must find that “there will be no voter disenfranchisement” is a good indication that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will step in again unless rights of those affected are taken into account.