State House Sound Bites

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

Corbett says he wouldn't read into split voter ID decision

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 16, 2012 9:33 PM

Thumbnail image for SupCourt2010.jpgThose tracking the voter ID saga are now watching the state Supreme Court, which is currently down to six judges evenly divided by party.

Democratic judges seated on the high court bench pummeled lawyers with questions during the recent hearing. Republicans were notably more quiet, spare a few specific legal questions and a line about how voter fraud has been around since the days of George Washington.

The ruling on voter ID could well come down to a three-to-three tie, which would uphold the decision of a lower court to let the law stand. Opponents say that would expose the justices as politically motivated. But when asked at an unrelated event earlier this week if he thinks a split decision would show a court divided along partisan lines, Gov. Corbett’s answer was swift.

“No,” he said. “I think the justices can have differences of opinion and it comes from a philosophy of where they come from.”

Not that judges should be letting party affiliations shape their judicial review, Corbett added. “When the justices review it, they should make their determination not on what party they’re registered with, but as to the constitutionality of the bill under the PA constitution,” he said.

But if the justices are influenced by the philosophy of where they come from, and the decision is split three to three, the law backed by the governor’s administration would be enforced this November.

In court on Thursday, Alfred Putnam, the attorney representing the governor, urged the Supreme Court justices to heed the ruling of the Commonwealth Court, which upheld voter ID. The judge in that hearing, Justice Robert Simpson, wrote that he thought it was unlikely any voter would be disenfranchised by the law. “I think that the opinion written by Justice Simpson was a very well-reasoned, thought-out opinion,” said Corbett. He added the lower court’s ruling was not only legally sound – it’s popular.

“The vast majority of Pennsylvanians want this bill,” Corbett said. “I believe that he certainly gave all the legal reasons why this bill is constitutional.”

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