Voter ID opponents, state file final briefs
Share with others:
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.
First Published September 24, 2012 1:42 pm