The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sent the Voter ID case back down to Judge Simpson in the Commonwealth Court. The Supreme Court decision didn’t strike down the voter ID law or enjoin its use, but it clearly expressed skepticism that it could be implemented by the November presidential balloting without disenfranchising some voters.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson upheld the law several weeks ago, saying at least 90,000 voters lacked necessary identification, but that he believed the state could make ID’s available to those voters in time.
The Supreme Court said the state’s efforts to get IDs to those voters have been by no means seamless, and said it is not satisfied with Simpson’s judgment, which relied on the assurances of government officials. Since the initial court ruling, Pennsylvania has begun issuing new IDs that can be used just for voting.
“What is disturbing is that these justices had an opp to throw this thing out, find it to be absolutely wrong and issue and injunction themselves,” said John Jordan, director of civic engagement for the Pennsylvania NAACP. “And they failed to do that. They pretty much punted the ball instead of going for it.”
In their ruling, the majority of the Supreme Court justices ordered the lower court to consider the case again – this time, with more information about the availability of a state-issued alternative photo ID. Two Democratic justices filed dissenting opinions – Justice Debra McCloskey Todd and Justice Seamus McCaffery.
“The eyes of the nation are upon us,” Todd wrote, “and this Court has chosen to punt rather than to act.”
The ID was deemed a “safety net” for registered voters unable to get a PennDOT driver’s or non-driver’s license. But it wasn’t being distributed at the time of the Commonwealth Court hearing.
“The Commonwealth Court in its opinion last month did indicate that it believed upon implementation of the Department of State voter ID card that any voter who wanted an ID could get one,” Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said. He indicated in an interview that the the issuance of new voter ID cards is going well and the adminstration believes it will be able to successfully implement the voter ID law. “I think what the Supreme Court is simply asking is now that the new card is being given out, to confirm that that is the case.”