“I Don’t Know What the Law Says”

HARRISBURG, Penn. – It was the fourth day of witness testimony in Pennsylvania’s voter ID law injunction hearing, and the state called one of the people named in the complaint. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele, an appointee of Gov. Tom Corbett, sat for a full hour. Petitioners’ attorney David Gersch walked her through a maze of hypothetical questions about the law’s possible side effects.

Aichele occasionally indulged a sarcastic side. “Secure ID, that’s not a terminology that you use?” asked Gersch, curious about the state’s standards.

“I’m using my interpretation of secure ID,” Aichele said, “which I’m making up right now.”

Gersch’s strategy seemed to be quizzing Aichele on a multi-decade history of ID laws, from before and after 9/11, asking whether or not she could explain whether the occasional hard luck voter – someone who lacked a birth certificate, say – could still get ID. After a certain amount of this, Aichele reminded Gersch that the state had plenty of references and facts that she, on the stand, might not be able to command. “I don’t know what the law says,” she said.

I’m here for a few days and will put all of this in context a bit later.