Pennsyvlania High Court Sends Voter ID Law Back to Lower Court

A lower court must decide if the state can issue IDs before November

Sep. 18, 2012— -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court returned the state's voter identification law to a lower court to determine whether the state is capable of issuing IDs to voters who need them before the November election in seven weeks.

If the state is unable to convince the court that voters will not be disenfranchised, an injunction must be issued before the election.

That means the state has to show the court that the law will not negatively impact potential voters. If they can't do that, the law will not go into effect for this election.

Opponents of the law have argued it discourages people, particularly Latinos, from voting, and that the law is a political move on the part of Republicans.

The law would require each voter to show a valid ID at the polls. Those most impacted - more than 15 percent of registered Latino voters do not have a valid ID - tend to back the president, while Mitt Romney's supporters tend to be White, middle- and upper-class, nonimmigrants.

Matt Barreto of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality filed a report on behalf of the plaintiffs arguing that more than 12 percent of the state's registered voters lacks the required IDs. That figure is more than double Obama's margin of victory in the state in 2008. The Pennsylvania Transportation Department pegs that figure slightly lower, at about nine percent.

"I believe there are hundreds of thousands of people that will not be able to get an ID in the next seven weeks. The challenge is just too great," Barreto said.

He added that many people erroneously assume they have the necessary ID because they have successfully voted before, and that by the time they realize they do not, it will be too late.

Barreto said that the law places the burden disproportionately on Latinos.

"Of all of the different groups in Pennsylvania, we found very clearly that Latinos are the most affected group in the state of Pennsylvania in terms of people who would be denied voting because of access," he said.

The Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that opposes the law, praised the most recent decision.

"We're glad to see that Pennsylvania Supreme Court is taking the actual impact on voters seriously," Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis said in a statement. "Requiring the state to prove the law will not disenfranchise voters is the right step to take. We're confident that the evidence demonstrates that this law does disenfranchise of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters and should be enjoined."