Pennsylvania courts to decide on controversial voter ID law

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.
Image: Ruhrfisch.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania voted Tuesday to send back to the state's lower courts a case that may decide the future of a law that requires voters to show photo ID in order to vote in the November elections.

Supporters of the law claim it is needed to prevent voter fraud. Critics charge no such voter fraud has been shown and the real reason behind voter ID laws is the disenfranchisement of minority and poor voters. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai told his fellow Republicans the voter ID law was "going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania".

The decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court instructed the lower court to consider whether, regardless of the possible constitutionality of the law in the long term, it may be impossible to implement it for this fall's election without disenfranchising voters who do not yet have the required ID. Two out of six Supreme Court justices said there was no need for the lower court to consider this because disenfranchisement would obviously occur.

Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican state representative from Butler County, Pennsylvania, who sponsored the voter ID bill said in a radio interview Wednesday that those unable to get identification documents are "lazy": "we have 40-something percent of the people that are living off the public dole, living off of their neighbor's hard work and we have a lot of people out there who are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. I mean if individuals are too lazy, the state can't fix that".

Laws of this sort in both Pennsylvania and other states have led to activists and groups such as the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation running campaigns to alert residents and help them get the relevant ID.

The Pennsylvania courts are to decide by October 2.