Pennsylvania will take its place as a battleground state on a different political front this week as supporters and opponents argue the validity of the state’s new voter ID law before the state Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday in Philadelphia. They will be televised live on Pennsylvania Cable Network at 9:30 a.m. The six-member court — evenly split between Democrats and Republicans — will be tasked with reviewing Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson’s August ruling that permitted Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law to be implemented for the Nov. 6 election. If the justices are deadlocked, Simpson’s decisions will stand.
The case is fraught with political consequences, coming two months before a presidential election. Supporters of such laws here and elsewhere, typically Republican, have argued that they are easy insurance for the integrity of elections at a time when registration lists have not been kept up to date. Critics, typically Democratic, argue that voter fraud is rare and that the voter ID laws are designed to suppress the turnout of voting blocs — the urban poor in particular — that often vote overwhelmingly for their party’s candidates.
Plaintiffs in this case say the state, as of Tuesday, had issued nearly 7,000 nondriver’s license photo ID cards since March, when the law was enacted. That proves their point that with at least 100,000 voters needing IDs, there’s strong evidence that “you are going to have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, without ID on Election Day,” said Witold Walczak, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania’s legal director.