As you most likely know, there is a great deal of controversy over voter ID laws this year. Here in Pennsylvania, the law was challenged and upheld in our lower courts. Just today, much to my surprise, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for some additional analysis.
The issue that concerned the Supreme Court is not whether the legislature can pass an ID law, actually, it is pretty well settled that a photo ID law of some kind is acceptable. Nor was the court particularly focused on the constitutionality of the law itself. Instead, the Court is concerned about the actual implementation of the ID process.
In attempting to implement an ID law so rapidly, the state legislature left Penn Dot in a bit of a difficult situation. Somehow Penn Dot had to figure out a process by which to provide the identification in a rapid way while still making certain of the accuracy of the IDs. After all, the idea is to prevent voter fraud, and it would do no good if the IDs were provided to people who should not be allowed to vote, that would defeat the purpose of the law. Accuracy is crucial.
So in sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court wants the trial Judge to explore whether in the actual implementation of the law, it is too difficult for voters to obtain an ID and therefore there is serious risk that those voters will be disenfranchised. This means that the attorneys will be given a second chance to argue before the court. This time though the focus will be the practical, i.e. what is actually happen in terms of providing IDs to people who do not already have them.
To review the opinion from the Supreme Court see http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-114-2012pco.pdf
It will be interesting to see what happens next.