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Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Voter ID closings now set for Thursday

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 31, 2013 9:03 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

After more than two weeks of testimony, the end of the voter ID case is in sight, with closing arguments set for Thursday morning in the trial of law's constitutionality.

The announcement came as something of an anticlimax, after lawyers came prepared to deliver their final arguments Wednesday. Instead, an ongoing dispute between legal teams prompted the judge to clear the courtroom of media. Then, lawyers huddled in their respective standby rooms as a clerk shuttled back and forth looking for a resolution.

Challengers of voter ID say based on state agency data, hundreds of voters tried and failed to get a Department of State last-resort ID card in time for last year's general election. They argue it shows the commonwealth is unable to ensure people won't be disenfranchised by the voter ID requirement.

Alicia Hickok, a lawyer hired by the commonwealth to defend voter ID, said opponents' assessment is "absolutely and completely wrong."

"First of all, it's based upon counsel's assumptions," said Hickok. "And it doesn't have anything to do with the underlying spreadsheet monitored or what the spreadsheet was capturing in data."

Voter ID opponents say the state fought to keep the contested numbers confidential and out of the trial record.

"They wanted that kept confidential, they wanted that kept private," said Jennifer Clarke, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "We had a number of disputes in there about the availability of this information to the public. They didn't want any of it out there."

The judge has accepted the evidence into the record, but hasn't decided whether to consider testimony about the numbers.

In the meantime, commonwealth lawyers have filed a motion to have the judge throw out the lawsuit, saying opponents of the law have not presented the necessary evidence. Clarke said there's nothing surprising about the move. "It's standard. It's perfunctory," she said.

Even Hickok, from the commonwealth's legal team, said it's unlikely the judge would dismiss the lawsuit from the bench, though she said he could still dismiss the case entirely after hearing closing arguments.

Opponents of voter ID say the law should be struck down because it disenfranchises voters by not ensuring that everyone is able to get ID necessary to vote. State lawyers maintain the commonwealth has met its burden to make proper identification accessible.

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