The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today sent that state's voter ID law back to a lower court to determine if, as alleged, the law disenfranchises voters.
It's not the victory opponents of the law -- similar to the one voters in Minnesota will decide in November -- had hoped for, but it raises the profile of questions voiced there -- and here -- about how difficult it will be to get the photo IDs to vote at all.
In particular, the majority on the court cited the strict guidelines the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation adopted for providing identifications to would-be voters.
Why? Because of the federal ID laws that make getting an identification card difficult.
However, as implementation of the Law has proceeded, PennDOT - apparently for good reason - has refused to allow such liberal access. Instead, the Department continues to vet applicants for Section 1510(b) cards through an identification process that Commonwealth officials appear to acknowledge is a rigorous one. See N.T. at 690, 994. Generally, the process requires the applicant to present 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. See N.T. at 467, 690, 793.1 The reason why PennDOT will not implement the Law as written is that the Section 1510(b) driver's license equivalent is a secure form of identification, which may be used, for example, to board commercial aircraft.
But in a dissent, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd criticized the court for not killing the law...
Despite impending near-certain loss of voting rights, despite the Commonwealth's admitted inability thus far to fully implement Act 18 and its acceptance that, presently, "the Law is not being implemented according to its terms," and despite the majority's concession that the "most judicious remedy" in such circumstances would be to grant an injunction, the majority nonetheless allows the Commonwealth to virtually ignore the election clock and try once again to defend its inexplicable need to rush this law into application by November 6, 2012.
Justice Sheamus McCaffery went further...
I was elected by the people of our Commonwealth, by Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others, as was every single Justice on this esteemed Court. I cannot now be a party to the potential disenfranchisement of even one otherwise qualified elector, including potentially many elderly and possibly disabled veterans who fought for the rights of every American to exercise their fundamental American right to vote. While I have no argument with the requirement that all Pennsylvania voters, at some reasonable point in the future, will have to present photo identification before they may cast their ballots, it is clear to me that the reason for the urgency of implementing Act 18 prior to the November 2012 election is purely political.
The question of how people will get the IDs if Minnesota approves the question in November is unclear because the Legislature didn't address the issue when it put the question before voters.
But the Pennsylvania situation makes clear that whatever ID process is followed, it not only will have to allow people to vote, it'll also have to get them on an airplane.
You mean that Minnesota will have to comply with these federal laws, too, that require showing all that documentation? That’s incredible! I don’t think I even showed my birth certificate when I got my driver’s license way back when.
It’s just ridiculous that the Pennsylvania courts won’t grant an injunction on this. It’s just a little over a month until election day. Is the PA SC dominated by conservatives?
We don't know, Jamie, because none of that is part of the amendment before the voters. That's all stuff that will be figured out later in Minnesota. I suspect it was in Pennsylvania, too.
It seems to me, though, that if Homeland Security has a vested interest in this, it would extend to Minnesota as well since it gets to the "integrity" of the ID.
Also, my hometown charges $10 for a birth certificate. if I didn't have a driver's license, how is that not a poll tax if I'm required to get a birth certificate (if we have Pennsylvani's rules, an EMBOSSED birth certificate), thereby requiring me to pay for the privilege of voting?
Bob - Of course anything that can be interpreted as a poll tax is undemocratic.
That said, I would be all in favor of a mandatory test on the basic issues in order to earn the right to vote.
Yes, I'm well aware of the abuses that occurred prior to the Voting Rights Act.
For that reason, and several others, I would also be entirely in favor of the federal government re-annexing all states south of the Mason-Dixon.
If the ballot measure passes here, I'd like to see any government issued ID with a photo to work as the ID. That means bus passes, EBT cards, student IDs from public institutions, employee badges for public employees, etc. That won't happen, of course.
I'm hoping that the state legislature will be re-taken by Democrats so that they can have actual influence in writing the law, if it comes to that.
The amendment will probably pass, unfortunately, because people aren't very knowledgable about what it could do, and there isn't very much of a public-information campaign going on. I'm a little disappointed in all the people putting so much energy into the marriage amendment at the expense of this one which could have much further-reaching and dire consequences.
Jamie - "so much energy into the marriage amendment at the expense of this one which could have much further-reaching and dire consequences."
And when a civil union bill would have a much greater chance of success.
Oh well. No one that knows anything about them ever believed that human beings were rational creatures.
Add exorbitant costs to the many reasons to oppose these ALEC-designed voter suppression bills and amendments.
The Pennsylvania law is neither "easy" nor "free" -- there are costs for both voters at one end and taxpayers in general at the other: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/pennsylvania-voter-id-_n_1895128.html?utm_hp_ref=elections-2012
The Minnesota amendment as written is even worse in terms of cost. Studies done by both Minnesota's county elections officials and the persons of the voter-protection group Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota both show the huge (and recurring) costs that local governments in particular, which are already nearly broke, will incur if this amendment is passed. : http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2012/09/citizens-for-election-integrity-minnesota-outlines-some-costs-of-voter-suppression-amendment.html
Thanks for the info, Phoenix Woman. I've been concerned about the cost, too. I'm surprised that more city councils and county boards are not coming out against this amendment for that reason. There just isn't enough information out there about this.