Civil rights groups are cheeringthe injunction placed on the Pennsylvania voter identification law, but their recent victories against state photo ID measures very likely won’t last beyond Election Day. The Pennsylvania law is the latest to lose a court ruling that keeps it from being implemented for Nov. 6; before that, a federal court ruled against Texas’ strict photo ID statute. In both cases, the judges ruled that voters who lack the allowed IDs would be disenfranchised. The Pennsylvania ruling, in particular, turned on the judge’s opinion that there wasn’t enough time for voters to obtain new IDs before Election Day.
Many legal observers expect the same outcome soon for South Carolina’s version of the law, which is before a federal three-judge panel in Washington. Lawyers for the state have acknowledged in court proceedings that it’s too near the election to educate voters about new requirement or issue IDs. But none of these laws, or those in other states, is dead.
Judges in these cases have declined to rule on the constitutionality of the laws. Doing so would deliver a legal death blow. Instead, judges have signaled that the laws would withstand scrutiny if states can ensure that the vast majority of voters have easier access to free IDs.