The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has vacated a lower court ruling that had effectively upheld in its entirety the state’s new, restrictive Voter ID law. The state Supreme Court returned the case back to the lower court and ordered it to review its decision.
The court, on review of the record, took issue with the lower court’s belief that Pennsylvania officials would be able to implement enough procedures to assure both compliance with the new restrictions and make sure as many citizens remained eligible to vote as possible. However, the court refused to strike the law, in part because those challenging it conceded that in some instances voter ID could be considered constitutional. From the opinion:
As a final element of the background, at oral argument before this Court, counsel for Appellants acknowledged that there is no constitutional impediment to the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement, at least in the abstract. Given reasonable voter education efforts, reasonably available means for procuring identification, and reasonable time allowed for implementation, the Appellants apparently would accept that the State may require the presentation of an identification card as a precondition to casting a ballot. The gravamen of their challenge at this juncture lies solely in the implementation.
That means that the lower court must give another look as to whether or not it is possible for Pennsylvania officials to have the law up and running in a constitutional fashion before November. If state officials cannot, then, according to the lower court, the law is to be enjoined until they can.
It’s a win, of sorts, for voting rights advocates. The law gets another look before a critical election and after Republicans have gone on the record saying their motivation in passing it was to disenfranchise Democratic voters. But, in order to get that small win those advocates conceded a lot of ground by conceding that the law could in some fashion square with basic constitutional principles. That’s a concession that all but guarantees this law will be in effect at some point.
Photo from David Jackmanson via flickr.