Pa. wants later date for voter-ID appeal

Posted: August 22, 2012

After winning their first round in Commonwealth Court last week, state officials are in no hurry to hear what the state Supreme Court may have to say about Pennsylvania's new voter-ID law.

The state Attorney General's Office, defending the law against contentions that it will disenfranchise thousands of voters, filed papers Tuesday suggesting that the Supreme Court consider the case the week of Oct. 15 - barely three weeks before the Nov. 6 general election.

Opponents of the law say the dispute should be settled as quickly as possible so voters will have a clear idea of what will be required of them when they go to the polls.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ruled last Wednesday that he was legally obliged to defer to the legislature's judgment on how to conduct state elections. He found that the state's interest in protecting public confidence in elections justified the burden - not an onerous one for most voters, he wrote - of asking voters to provide photo identification.

In their appeal, opponents of the voter-ID law asked the Supreme Court to expedite briefings and put the case on its calendar for the week of Sept. 10.

The state disagreed.

"Scheduling argument for the October 2012 term in Pittsburgh is more realistic than attempting to schedule it for the September term in Philadelphia," said the state's motion, filed by Attorney General Linda L. Kelly.

Kelly noted that Sept. 10 is less than three weeks away and that the Supreme Court is holding a full day of arguments on another significant issue - legislative redistricting - during that time.

"Scheduling argument in October will still meet the concerns raised by appellants in their motion, as no one will vote in person before November," Kelly wrote.

Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, one of the lawyers fighting voter ID, said in a telephone interview that the public interest is better served by an earlier decision.

"The later this gets decided, the harder it will be to implement," Walczak said.

The Supreme Court currently has three members elected as Democrats and three elected as Republicans, with the seventh seat vacant. It would take at least four votes to overturn Simpson's ruling and stall voter ID past the general election.


Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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