Hearing on controversial Voter ID law fast approaching

By Jon Campisi | Jun 26, 2013

All the fuss concerning Pennsylvania’s controversial new Voter ID law may have died

down during the past several months, but the issue should once again begin to make headlines in just a few weeks’ time, when court proceedings on the merits of the legislation are slated to get underway.

Commonwealth Court, an intermediate appellate body that deals primarily with election issues, has scheduled July 15 as the first day in a hearing to address the plaintiffs’ motion to extend a preliminary injunction that was granted by Judge Robert Simpson this past October preventing the law from taking effect the following month during general elections.

Simpson subsequently granted a request for an extension preventing voters from having to show photo identification at the polls during the May Primary Election as well.

Lawyers representing those challenging the Voter ID law, also known as Act 18, are also seeking a permanent injunction from the court.

A handful of voters being represented by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights attorneys claim the law disproportionately disenfranchises minorities, the elderly and other vulnerable members of society since those are the people least likely to have a state-issued driver’s license or identification card.

That bloc of society also tends to vote for Democratic candidates, leading challengers to allege that the law was really designed as a back-door way of suppressing voter turnout.

The Republican state lawmakers behind the law’s passage dispute that argument, stating that it was a necessary toward clamping down on voter fraud.

In his prior determination, Simpson ruled that voters would have likely been disenfranchised had they been required to show an ID card during the November general election, agreeing with the plaintiffs that they might not have had enough time by which to secure the proper paperwork in order to obtain their IDs.

Simpson, however, never technically ruled on the merits of the legislation, leaving that for a later date.

In January, Simpson set aside July 15 as the day the parties would have to argue their respective positions.

The hearing will take place at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg.

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