Supreme Court wants more lower court study on Voter ID

The state Supreme Court has punted the controversial Voter ID case back to the state's Commonwealth Court for additional review, according to an order released this afternoon.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, in an Aug. 15 ruling rejecting a request for a preliminary injunction to keep the state's new Voter ID law from being used during the Nov. 6 general election, repeatedly mentioned a new form of identification being developed by the Pennsylvania Department of State for voters who were having trouble obtaining other types of state-approved legislation that will be needed to cast a ballot.

The Department of State started offering that new type of voter ID on Aug. 27.  Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Department of State, said Monday the state has issued about about 9,000 new identification cards for voting purposes since the law was passed in March.

The Supreme Court, which heard an appeal of Simpson's ruling last Thursday, sent the case back to Commonwealth Court "to make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification cards on a developed record in light of the experience since the time the cards became available." The Supreme Court wants that done by Oct. 2.

Justices Debra McCloskey Todd and Seamus McCaffery filed a pair of joint dissents in the case, saying the Supreme Court should act now on the request for a preliminary injunction.  Todd noted that the presidential election is 49 days away.

"The eyes of the nation are upon us, and this Court has chosen to punt rather than to act," Todd wrote. "I will have no part of it."

McCaffery pointed out that the state has offered no proof of the in-person voter fraud the Voter ID law is designed to prevent.  He predicts that Simpson's review will again find "many thousands" of people without the proper ID to vote.

"I cannot in good conscience participate in a decision that so clearly has the effect of allowing politics to trump the solemn oath that I swore to uphold our Constitution," McCaffery wrote. "That Constitution has made the right to vote a right verging on the sacred, and that right should never be trampled by partisan politics."