September 18, 2012- In a potentially significant victory for Democrats, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated a lower court's decision to uphold the states's restrictive new voter ID law on Tuesday, and asked the judge to consider enjoining it instead.
The law, passed by a Republican legislature and governor, requires voters to have specific, state-issued photo ID — a move that opponents say could disenfranchise tens of thousands of people, most of them minorities, students and the elderly.
"We are not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials," the court wrote of arguments that voters would not be disenfranchised by the law.
The court ruled 4-2, with two dissenting justices saying it should have blocked the law outright. One justice accused the court of "punting" and said she would have "no part in it."
The state Supreme Court sent the case back to the Commonwealth Court judge, but with instructions that seemed almost designed to force him to enjoin the law. Given the fact that there are less than two months until the election, the justices wrote, "the most judicious remedy, in such a circumstance, is the entry of a preliminary injunction, which may moot further controversy as the constitutional impediments dissipate."
The judge was instructed "to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment" of ID cards comports with the law as written — which the court itself made clear was not the case. "The Department of State has realized, and the Commonwealth parties have candidly conceded, that the Law is not being implemented according to its terms," the justices wrote.
The justices, for instance, noted in their decision that while the law called for voters to be granted state-issued ID simply upon an affirmation, "as implementation of the Law has proceeded, PennDOT — apparently for good reason — has refused to allow such liberal access."