Pennsylvania’s highest court on Tuesday told a lower court that it should stop a tough new voter photo identification law from taking effect in this year’s presidential election if the judge concludes voters cannot easily get ID cards or thinks they will be disenfranchised. The 4-2 decision by the state Supreme Court sends the case back to the lower Commonwealth Court, where a judge initially ruled in August that the divisive law could go forward. The high court asked for an opinion by Oct. 2 — just 35 days before the election. If the judge finds there will be no voter disenfranchisement and that IDs are easily obtained, then the 6-month-old law can stand, the Supreme Court said. But the Supreme Court’s directions to the lower court set a much tougher standard than the one Judge Robert Simpson used when he rejected the plaintiffs’ request to halt the law, said David Gersch, the challengers’ lead lawyer.
“It’s certainly a very positive step in the right direction in that the court recognizes that the state does not make adequate provision for people to get the ID that they would need to vote,” Gersch said. “In addition, there is a practical problem with getting the ID to people in the short time available.”
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees voting and elections, said the agency will provide whatever information a judge may seek. “We believe, as we have all along, that any legal voter who wants to get an ID is able to do so,” spokesman Ron Ruman said. A Commonwealth Court official said Tuesday afternoon that no judge had been assigned yet to the task.