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Supreme Court sends Voter ID decision back to lower court for second review

By   /   September 18, 2012  /   1 Comment

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a ruling on the state’s new “Voter ID” law, but the legal battle continues.

Rather than upholding or striking down the law, the high court voted 4-2 to vacate an earlier ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson and ordered the lower court to take a second look at the law. The Supremes told the Commonwealth Court to judge the law based on its implementation and whether all Pennsylvanians had access to the identification required by it, rather than focusing on the constitutional authority of the General Assembly to implement such a law, as it did the first time.

The lower court is to consider “whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards” fits within the standards set forth in the law, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March.

“We find that the disconnect between what the law proscribes and how it is being implemented has created a number of conceptual difficulties in addressing the legal issues raised,” read a portion of the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court ordered a new ruling from the lower court by Oct. 2 and said it would expedite any future appeals to settle the case before the election, only seven weeks away.

In the majority opinion, the court noted opponents of the law said during oral arguments the photo identification requirement could be constitutional, but it was implemented too soon before an election to give all residents of the state adequate time to obtain the necessary identification.

Two of the three Democrats on the court — Justices Debra Todd and Seamus McCaffery — filed dissenting opinions.

In his dissent, McCaffery wrote “there is no doubt that the record, as it is, establishes the immediate and irreparable harm required for the injunction.”

He said the Supreme Court should have ordered the Commonwealth Court to grant the injunction sought by plaintiffs in the case.

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