Commonwealth Court judge schedules hearing for additional review of Voter ID law appeal

By Jon Campisi | Sep 21, 2012

The state appellate court judge who initially denied to issue an injunction in the Voter ID

The state appellate court judge who initially denied to issue an injunction in the Voter ID

case has scheduled a hearing for next week to once again address the appeal, this after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently vacated the judge’s earlier ruling and sent the case back down to the lower court for additional review.

In a Sept. 20 scheduling order, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson set a hearing date of Sept. 25 at 10 a.m. in his third-floor courtroom in the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg.

Simpson has blocked off the entire day up through 5 p.m. to hear the petitioners’ arguments on why they feel the Voter ID law cannot move forward as intended.

If necessary, the court will reconvene on Sept. 27 at 10 a.m. and continue until concluded; no hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26, which is a Jewish holiday.

In his order, Simpson stated that pre-hearing briefs should be filed and served by noon on Sept. 24.

The briefs need to contain what Simpson called arguments “pertinent to the Supreme Court’s directive 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 order further requires the appellants to include signed reports from any proposed expert witness who may be involved in the hearings.

Simpson had previously ruled that the state’s new controversial Voter ID law, which requires those casting ballots at polling places to show photo identification before doing so, appears constitutional on its face.

In doing so, Simpson refused to grant a temporary injunction that would have prevented the law from being implemented during the time of November’s general election.

On Sept. 18, however, during a session in Philadelphia, the state Supreme Court questioned if the law was being carried out as intended.

Part of the law allows for “liberal access” to identification cards, or rather provides an assurance that those seeking photo IDs will not be overly burdened in obtaining one.

Testimony from those challenging the law, however, showed that many potential voters were having difficulty getting their hands on a valid photo ID, oftentimes because of the requirements, such as having a birth certificate and a Social Security car, that are prerequisites for obtaining the ID.

The high court expressed concern that potential voters were indeed already being disenfranchised, and thus ordered further review by Judge Simpson, who now must determine whether the law is moving forward as intended.

If so-called “liberal access” to obtaining a photo ID is not in the works, the justices said Simpson would likely have to issue an injunction.

If Simpson determines, however, that the law’s requirements to obtain an ID are not overly burdensome, he may uphold his previous ruling.

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