Nobody could predict how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would break on voter ID. Thanks to a scandal tying up one of the court’s four Republican-appointed members, the bench was split 3-3. Republicans were somewhat confident that the Supremes would save the law, especially after the Commonwealth Court affirmed it. Democrats, with nothing else to bet on, were cautiously optimistic.
For now, the Democrats (yes, technically, the non-partisan voter rights groups) have won.
We agree with Appellants’ essential position that if a statute violates constitutional norms in the short term, a facial challenge may be sustainable even though the statute might validly be enforced at some time in the future. Indeed, the most judicious remedy, in such a circumstance, is the entry of a preliminary injunction, which may moot further controversy as the constitutional impediments dissipate.
Overall, we are confronted with an ambitious effort on the part of the General Assembly to bring the new identification procedure into effect within a relatively short timeframe and an implementation process which has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch. Given this state of affairs, we are not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials, even though we have no doubt they are proceeding in good faith.
The decision is kicked back down to the Commonwealth Court, ordered to make a decision by October 2. The Supremes leave open the option of an injunction that would stop the law through this election.