Pennsylvania Supreme Court Sends Voter ID Case to Lower Court

The lower court decision is expected by Oct. 2, roughly one month before the election.

Posted: 09/18/2012 05:37 PM EDT

The controversy over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law was not resolved as the State Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, asking for a judge to halt the law’s implantation if he finds that voters cannot get their documents easily.

By a 4-to-2 decision, the State Supreme Court sent the case back to a Commonwealth Court judge, who initially said the controversial law could be implemented. The higher court asked the judge, Robert Simpson, to issue an opinion by Oct. 2, roughly one month before the election.

"It's certainly a very positive step in the right direction in that the court recognizes that the state does not make adequate provision for people to get the ID that they would need to vote," said David Gersch, the lead lawyer for a coalition of people who have challenged the law's constitutionality. "In addition, there is a practical problem with getting the ID to people in the short time available."

Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that has been fighting against enacting the law, praised the court's action as a "step in the right direction."

Pennsylvania has become the new battleground in the high-stakes brawl over voting rights, with the courts now weighing in on the legality of new rules enacted by a Republican legislature.

The changes could lead to at least a tenth of the state’s voters being rendered ineligible to cast ballots in November.

The changes in the Pennsylvania laws have galvanized not just advocacy groups that are fighting against the laws being enacted but also Republicans who claim that they are simply trying to curb voter fraud.

Two months ago, during a hearing in Pennsylvania state court, political science experts testified that 1 million registered voters, or about 12.7 percent of the state’s registered voters, lacked valid identification to cast ballots under the new law.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP have complained that the new law would effectively disenfranchise a large number of voters who are African-American, Latino, elderly or in school.

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(Photo: Government ID)

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