This summer, like last, teams of lawyers have spent days in a courtroom near the state Capitol arguing whether the state’s voter ID law creates too great a barrier to the polls. At a glance, the hearing last summer over the law’s enforcement at the approaching November elections and the one currently taking place in Commonwealth Court over its permanent fate are similar enough that spectators could be forgiven for a sense of deja vu. Again, voters without identification testify about their difficulties getting it. Experts estimate what portion of the electorate lacks acceptable ID. Opponents argue the law will stand between citizens and their right to vote, while the state counters it has provided ample opportunity to obtain an ID included in the law.
But much has changed since one year ago, when the courts first examined the Pennsylvania law amid the pressure of an impending presidential contest and with a promise by the state that it would produce a new, easier-to-obtain ID.
Now, with that ID in circulation and with the guidance of the court decisions that postponed the law’s full enactment, the challengers are presenting a different type of voter they say would be disenfranchised, while the arguments of both sides increasingly hinge on how accessible the free Department of State ID really is.