State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Considering implications of judge's suggested narrow injunction

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 30, 2012 9:42 PM

Thumbnail image for commcourt0927.jpgLegal experts are considering a possible impact of an injunction of the voter ID law that would require those without proper ID to vote provisionally, which some say could introduce chaos into the election in November.

It’s still unclear how many people don’t have the proper ID they would need to vote under the law, as it now stands. So, if people without ID in November were only able to vote by casting provisional ballots, it’s unclear how many ballots that would be.

Some suggest it’ll be a large number, and disrupt the election, because the process of validating and counting such ballots can be long and sometimes hotly contested.

“It’s almost like asking for a chaos situation around the election,” said Kathy Goldman, an attorney in the Republican National Lawyers Association. She notes the process of counting provisional ballots is a laborious one, and ballots can be challenged. She said if a ruling relegates more voters to vote provisionally, lawyers will swoop in to monitor the counting of ballots, and many will be keen on verifying the identity of voter. But Goldman doubts many people would have to vote provisionally under such a scenario – she’s worried about something far less predictable.

“What I’m concerned about, frankly, is that as a protest to the voter ID law people will intentionally not bring their photo identification but instead choose to demand a provisional ballot,” said Goldman.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson suggested he may issue a very focused injunction that upholds most of the law and simply requires those without ID to vote by provisional ballot, allowing those ballots to be counted, even if voters don’t produce proper ID later.

“There was to my knowledge certainly nothing in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s opinion about tinkering,” said Jessie Allen, a professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Such a laser-like revision, she said, isn’t in keeping with the directions the lower court judge received.

The state Supreme Court said the lower court judge would be “obliged” to block the law unless he were convinced it would not disenfranchise any voters.

Simpson’s ruling on whether he’ll block voter ID is due Tuesday.

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