Voter ID Loses a Battle in Pennsylvania

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.