Huffpost Politics

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Strategies Shift After Ruling

Posted: Updated:

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Strategies will shift as the first court battle over Pennsylvania's new law requiring voters to show valid photo identification heads to the state Supreme Court, while other legal hurdles could surface and political campaigns lumber toward the November election.

The law's Republican backers and, they say, the integrity of the Nov. 6 presidential election were the winners of Wednesday's decision by a state appellate judge to reject an injunction that would have halted the law from taking effect in November, as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality.

About a dozen rights groups and registered voters filed an appeal Thursday. Democrats say the law will trample the right to vote for countless people in an echo of the now-unconstitutional poll taxes and literacy tests once designed to discriminate against poor and minority voters.

The GOP-penned law, signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in March and opposed by every Democratic lawmaker, has ignited a furious debate over voting rights in Pennsylvania, which is poised to play a starring role in deciding the presidential contest.

Lawyers are asking the state's highest court for a speedy review of the appeal, requesting that oral arguments be scheduled during the court's session in Philadelphia the week of Sept. 10.

At the state Supreme Court, votes by four justices would be needed to overturn Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson's ruling. The high court is currently split between three Republicans and three Democrats following the recent suspension of Justice Joan Orie Melvin, a Republican who is fighting criminal corruption charges.

A key focus on appeal is likely to be Simpson's decision to give strong deference to the government, rather than put a heavier legal burden on it to justify a law that opponents say infringes on a constitutional right.

"I don't know of any other state court that has ruled on photo ID that has applied such a low standard, that has protected the right to vote so little," said Penda Hair, co-director of Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that helped challenge the law.

In his 70-page opinion, Simpson said the federal courts and most state courts give the same kind of deference to the government when considering voter identification cases. But lawyers for the plaintiffs suggest that Pennsylvania's state constitution goes further than many of those state constitutions in extending protections to voting rights.

Simpson, a Republican, didn't rule on the full merits of the case, only whether to grant a preliminary injunction stopping it from taking effect. But he rejected the suit's claim that the law is unconstitutional and ruled that the challenge did not meet the stiff requirements to win an injunction.

Democrats say the law is a thinly veiled attempt to help the Republican presidential challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, beat President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Republicans, who for years have harbored suspicions of ballot-box stuffing in the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia, say the law is a commonsense measure.

Republicans lauded Simpson's decision, while Democrats blasted it, and both parties sent out fundraising appeals spinning off Simpson's decision. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign had a lower-profile response, saying it would continue its efforts to register voters and educate them about the law, and it urged the state to follow through on its plan to make available free photo IDs to any registered voter who needs one.

State elections officials have until the middle of next week to supply information to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is looking at Pennsylvania's law and has moved to block voter ID laws in other states. Another lawsuit is pending from the state's second-most populous county, Allegheny County.

Also on HuffPost:

7 Ways You Could Be Disenfranchised
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

Pennsylvania voter ID law ruling almost certain to be appealed

PA Voter ID Ruling a Slap in the Face to Democracy

Plaintiff in Pennsylvania's voter ID challenge speaks out

Pennsylvania voter ID law upheld

Pennsylvania Voter ID Decision: Emotional Plantiff Speaks To HuffPost Live

Pa. upholds controversial voter ID law

Pennsylvania voter ID law: Key swing states tinker with Election 2012 rules

Judge won't halt Pa. voter identification law

Partisan Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Wrongly Upheld by Court

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
Click for Full Results