Morning Must Reads: PA Supreme Court Raises Concerns About State's Implementation of Voter ID Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday sent the high-profile legal challenge to the state's Voter ID Law back to Commonwealth Court and instructed that court to again consider whether the law will disenfranchise voters. In the process, the justices voiced some concern about how the state is implementing the law.

The Supreme Court ruling specifically instructed the Commonwealth Court to review whether the procedures for issuing the new Department of State IDs "comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards." If the Commonwealth Court finds that the procedures do not, or is otherwise unconvinced that no voters will be disenfranchised because of the law's requirements, then the court "is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction," preventing the law from going into effect with the fall election. The Commonwealth Court has until Oct. 2 to issue its ruling.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a bit more.

It's not enough that state officials told a judge they would make identification available to voters, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said on Tuesday as it ordered a lower court to again consider stopping the voter ID law.

Instead, the justices wrote, the Commonwealth Court must review how a new ID has been made available and whether it still believes the law will allow all legitimate votes to count. If not, the Supreme Court wrote, Pennsylvania's new law must be halted.

The high court did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, but it raised concerns about the state's ability to implement parts of the law requiring the provision of free identification cards to voters without them. In reviewing the August decision by a Commonwealth Court judge to let the law go forward, the justices wrote they were not satisfied by the reliance upon assurances from state officials that they would educate voters and remove barriers to obtaining identification.

The unsigned order, which drew dissents from two justices who wrote that the law should be stopped, instructed the Commonwealth Court to revisit the case by considering if the procedures for offering a new form of identification meet the law's requirements of easy accessibility.

It states also that "there is little disagreement" that the voters who could lack access to identification include "members of some of the most vulnerable segments of our society," including the elderly, the poor and people who are disabled.

As Jamar Thrasher noted last week in a post on Supreme Court arguments in the case, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has called on the commonwealth to delay the implementation of the law after finding in a report released in August that potential barriers for voters seeking ID risks some votes not being counted.

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