by Félix Pérez
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court put a hold Tuesday on what many view as a restrictive voter ID law designed to suppress the vote of certain groups of voters. The court, in a 4-2 ruling, sent the issue back to the lower court that had earlier upheld the law.
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In its ruling, the court stated that the “law is not being implemented according to its own terms,” adding there is “little disagreement” with the plaintiffs’ “observation that the population involved includes members of some of the most vulnerable segments of our society (the elderly, disabled members of our community, and the financially disadvantaged).”
The Supreme Court ordered Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson to stop the law from taking effect if he finds it will prevent qualified voters from casting a ballot. Simpson has until October 2 to give both sides a chance to make new arguments.
Simpson upheld the law in August despite state officials conceding before the trial began that they have no evidence of voter fraud and that the law would not prevent voter fraud.
Jerry Oleksiak, a classroom teacher for 35 years and president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said:
Hopefully, in the end this unnecessary and unjust law that deprives people of their fundamental right to vote will not stand. But we must be prepared, and that means educating our members on the requirements of the law and how to comply.’
A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law concluded that more than 135,000 eligible voters in Pennsylvania without a vehicle live more than 10 miles from the nearest state office that issues an approved ID
“In the real world, poor voters find shuttered offices, long drives without cars, and with spotty or no bus service, and sometimes prohibitive costs. For these Americans, the promise of our democracy is tangibly distant. It can be measured in miles,” said the Brennan Center assessment.
In a separate analysis, The Philadelphia Inquirer found that more than 9.2 percent of the state’s voters lack a state-issued ID. The figure climbs closer to 18 percent in urban areas like Philadelphia, where the state’s black, Democratic-leaning voters are concentrated.