About 11 percent of the nation's voters lack photo IDs. The proportion, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, is higher among minorities, the poor, and the elderly.
Sitting in Washington, the judges noted the Texas law might have passed muster if voters could easily obtain an ID and if underlying documents to get an ID were free of charge.
For Pennsylvanians who don't drive, getting a valid ID is neither easy nor free.
The state offers the more than 750,000 non-driving voters the option of getting a non-driving PennDot ID or a special voter ID.
But judges should consider that non-drivers will still have to trek to a PennDot center to get them.
Pennsylvania's requirements remain confusing and discriminatory. For example, someone born elsewhere can get a new voter ID in one day from a PennDot center. But someone born here must make two trips, notes the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy. Birth certificates take days to verify and a voter would have to return thereafter to get his or her ID.
Because Texas has a history of discriminating against minority voters, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, it needs federal clearance to change voting requirements.
Pennsylvania, with a relatively better history, does not fall under this section of the act. But with this law, the commonwealth could become known for denying voting rights, vying with others for a shameful status.
The declared intent of voter-ID laws in 10 states is to prevent voter impersonation at polling places. But Pennsylvania stipulated in this case that it had no proof of such imposters, giving credence to advocates who say this law is aimed at discouraging vulnerable voters by making them jump through unreasonable hoops to get the necessary cards.
These laws were passed by Republican legislatures to depress Democratic turnout in the election. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) admitted as much when he said the new rules would help GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney win. Whom people are likely to choose should not determine whether they are allowed to vote.
The Supreme Court should step up where the Commonwealth Court failed and guarantee voters their rights. At the very least, the court should delay implementation of this law until after the Nov. 6 election so the government can ensure it isn't disenfranchising its citizens.