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State says it has met Supreme Court standard on Voter ID

The Pennsylvania Department of State and PennDOT declared Tuesday that they have met the standard set by the state Supreme Court last Wednesday on "liberal access" to identification needed to vote in the Nov. 6 general election.  That declaration comes one week before state Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson must rule on whether any voters will be disenfranchised by the state's Voter ID law.

Secretary of State Carol Aichele, in a statement released Tuesday morning, said the process for obtaining a new state ID developed for voting has now been streamlined.  A voter must visit a PennDOT office and provide their name, date of birth, Social Security number and address.  PennDOT will confirm if the person is a registered voter and issue the ID.

Opponents of the law and voter registration advocates had complained that voters trying to get the new state ID were required to make multiple trips to PennDOT offices and wait several days.

"We believe these updates to our process will meet the Supreme Court standard that Voter ID cards be liberally accessible," Aichele's statement said.

Simpson, in an Aug. 15 ruling, rejected a challenge to the Voter ID law, relying heavily on the availability of the new identification cards, even though they were not offered until Aug. 27.  The Supreme Court last Wednesday gave him until Oct. 2 to review how the new identification was being issued.  The Supreme Court said Simpson was "obliged" to issue a preliminary injunction to keep the law from being used in the general election if it would prevent any voter from casting a ballot.


From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last night

Back in court again, opponents of the state's voter identification requirements are set to argue getting IDs is too burdensome, leading to voter disenfranchisement and a need to suspend enforcement of the law.

Lawyers for the Corbett administration are countering that the law has been deemed constitutional and opponents are "loosely" throwing around disenfranchisement charges.

Briefs laying out those claims were filed in advance of the latest hearing scheduled for today before Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson. The state Supreme Court sent a challenge of the law back to the lower court earlier this month to ensure there is "liberal access" to new voting-only IDs and there will be "no disenfranchisement" of voters on Nov. 6.

The 14-page brief from the American Civil Liberties Union and other challengers of the law say applicants for the new IDs are forced to visit PennDOT driver's license centers at least twice to obtain them. A 24-page brief from Corbett administration attorneys argues state officials have followed election statutes in distributing the new IDs, and repeatedly notes the state's law was deemed constitutional by the high court.

The state has issued about 9,000 PennDOT non-driving IDs and 1,000 voting-only IDs since the law was implemented and only 100 applicants could not obtain the latter on their first visit, according to the state's brief, and those delays were due to incorrect spellings or delays in voter registration rolls. State election statutes require a 10-day lag time between voters being registered and receiving registration, so the state is only following those rules, the brief notes.

State lawyers also push back against the claim that the Supreme Court ordered there be no evidence of voter disenfranchisement. The law's opponents, says the brief, "use the word 'disenfranchise' loosely; they seem to think that any legislation that contemplates any extra step that a voter must take in order to cast a vote is unconstitutional because some voters may not take those steps."

The brief from opponents lays out difficulties voters have had in obtaining IDs, including the example of an 84-year-old Beaver County woman who twice made 80-minute drives to her county's driver's license center, only to return empty-handed, and others denied the cards because they were recently registered.

The brief further argues that PennDOT workers are not sufficiently trained in producing new ID claims in the short time frame before the election; that some applicants face long wait-times or live in counties without license centers; and that voter education efforts on the new requirements have been insufficient. Postcards due to be sent to 5.9 million voting households next month do not say how to obtain acceptable ID and will only be in English, it notes.

"Given the real difficulties that registered voters have encountered in their efforts to obtain voter identification cards -- and in particular the amount of time it has frequently taken for voters to obtain the IDs -- there is simply not enough time for the Commonwealth to ensure that no one will be disenfranchised by the Photo ID law for purposes of the upcoming elections," the opponents' brief argues.

Timothy McNulty: or 412-263-1581.
 First Published September 24, 2012 1:42 pm

Voter ID opponents, state file final briefs
Read more:

An Update from the PA ACLU below the fold

Some good source info from the PA ACLU

Which includes links to amicus breifs
Amicus breifs

3:56 PM PT: Update w links to the PA ACLU below the fold

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