Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Blog

Yesterday, we talked to you about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling on the Commonwealth’s new voter law.  In a 4-2 decision, the Justices said they weren’t convinced that the law would not impede on voting rights, and that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, while acting in good faith, was operating under joint burdens of operational and time constraints that might prohibit the timely issuance of required identification

“Not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials,” the Supreme Court has sent the case back to a lower court to determine whether Pennsylvania can reasonably meet its obligation to provide valid state IDs to all applicants before the November 6 election. And so the law will go back to Judge Robert Simpson, of the Commonwealth Court, for review.

In his original 70-page ruling upholding the law, Simpson cited a legal precedent from 1869. Patterson v Barlow actually advocated implementing a discriminatory registration process, in order to avoid placing “the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities, on a level with the virtuous and good man.” The 1869 ruling cleared the way for Philadelphia to implement registration procedures different from Pennsylvania’s more rural jurisdictions, because “rogues and strumpets do not nightly traverse the deserted highways of the farmer. Low inns, restaurants, sailors' boarding-houses and houses of ill fame do not abound in rural precincts, ready to pour out on election day their pestilent hordes."

And so, while states like Texas and Wisconsin have had their voter ID laws suspended or overturned as discriminatory, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is returning the voter ID law for final review by a Judge whose original decision was based on ensuring discrimination and differential treatment.

Simpson has until October 2 to issue his ruling.