Bad Omen For NC’s Voter ID Bill?

Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports HERE on Friday’s ruling by a Pennsylvania court judge that struck down the State’s new Voter ID law on the grounds that it unduly burdens those that do not have one of the prescribed forms of identification.  A key excerpt, slightly edited for brevity:

The Republican-controlled Legislature in March 2012 passed the law, one of the strictest in the nation, over objections from Democrats, who, along with other critics, said the measure would suppress voting by poor people, minorities, and elderly residents.  The law requires all Pennsylvania voters to show one of certain forms of photo identification — a driver’s license or passport, but not welfare cards or the many college IDs that lack expiration dates.

The legal challenge on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Homeless Advocacy Project, and a number of voters was met with an initial Commonwealth Court ruling declining to stop the law for the 2012 election and then a state Supreme Court order that the lower court reconsider.  The law’s full requirements have been blocked at each election since its passage.

In a determination issued Friday morning, the judge found that a lack of compelling governmental interest in imposing the requirement — the state acknowledged at the start that it knew of no cases of in-person voting fraud, the kind addressed by voter ID — could not justify the law in the face of “overwhelming evidence” that hundreds of thousands of qualified voters lack acceptable documentation.  “Certainly a vague concern about voter fraud does not rise to a level that justifies the burdens constructed here,” the decision states.

The ruling concludes that the law unnecessarily restricts the types of acceptable identification, leaving out welfare cards, school district employee cards, gun permits, and Pennsylvania college IDs that lack expiration dates.  Noting that military retiree IDs and most student IDs lack expiration dates, he went so far as to conclude: “The voter ID law as written suggests a legislative disconnect from reality.”

We should not read too much into this ruling, as it was in a state court rather than a Federal court, and it may yet be reversed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  However, the Pennsylvania law has a lot in common with the North Carolina legislation, so we must hope that our law has been more carefully crafted so as to withstand this sort of litigation, as such lawsuits are already underway.