The Pa. Supreme Court neither upheld nor threw out the state’s new Voter ID requirement. Instead, in a win for the law’s opponents, the 6 justices instructed a lower court to redo an earlier ruling that kept the law in place.
At issue is not the underlying question over whether the state can require ID. Rather, it’s the question of how quickly the state can accommodate prospective voters who presently lack ID.
Critics of the legislation argued that many Pa. citizens who are Constitutionally eligible to vote would be disenfranchised due to the onerous process of obtaining valid photo identification. The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that those concerns were paramount, and that a Commonwealth Court Judge who has upheld the law needed to look further into the availability of ID. They vacated, or nullified, the Judge’s earlier decision upholding the law.
4 of 6 Justices voted to remand the lower Court’s decision, while 2 Justices wanted the law stricken down outright.
While the law is not inherently unconstitutional, the higher Court issued an unsigned order saying that the 2012 election may be too soon for it to take effect:
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.
It’s all about the implementation, which the Court says is the key disagreement:
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 Commonwealth Court has until October 2 to render a new verdict. A split decision on the law itself would have resulted in the law being upheld.