Pennsylvania Supreme Court Takes Appeal on Voter ID Law

A challenge to Pennsylvania’s voter ID law will be heard by the state Supreme Court.

The American Civil Liberties Union and 10 voters are challenging the requirement that voters show approved photo identification at the polls. A lower-court judge ruled last week that the plaintiffs didn’t prove it would disenfranchise voters.

“We appreciate that the court has agreed to take this important case on such short notice,” David Gersch, a lawyer for the ACLU with the firm Arnold & Porter LLP, said by e-mail.

Pennsylvania, one of nine states that passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote, became a test case in the voter-eligibility debate after a state analysis found as many as 9 percent of its electorate might be unable to vote for president.

Lawsuits over voting access are in courts in swing states, including Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, where both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns see a possibility of victory. Voter cases are also under way in Alabama, Texas and South Carolina.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis, with written arguments due by Sept. 7 and oral arguments to be scheduled at its session in Philadelphia from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13, according to court records. The state argued that scheduling arguments for October in Pittsburgh is more realistic.

State Comment

“We feel the law is on solid legal footing as we have all along,” Ron Ruman, a spokesman for Pennsylvania’s Department of State, said yesterday. “We will be prepared to move forward.”

Pennsylvania’s law requires a driver’s license or other state-issued ID, or an acceptable alternative such as a military ID, to cast a ballot in the presidential election.

Backed by Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, the law enacted in March followed similar measures passed in Republican-controlled states, leading opponents to claim the intent is to disenfranchise some voters.

State officials have said Pennsylvania’s law will help deter in-person voter fraud, protect the integrity of elections and ensure public confidence in the election process. The state conceded in court last month that there has never been an investigation, prosecution or confirmed incident of in-person voter fraud.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said Aug. 15 that the state offered credible evidence that steps taken between now and the election would help educate voters and streamline the process of acquiring approved photo identification.

The challengers failed to establish that greater injury will occur from refusing to temporarily bar the law than from blocking it, Simpson said.

The Pennsylvania case is Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 330-md-2012, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).

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