Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, for instance, was approved in the spring by the Republican-led legislature and signed by its new governor before the state had any idea how many voters lacked the kind of identification required by the new law, or whether it could be provided in time for the fall elections.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, elected as a Democrat, wrote: “While I have no argument with the requirement that all Pennsylvania voters, at some reasonable point in the future, will have to present photo identification before they may cast their ballots, it is clear to me that the reason for the urgency of implementing Act 18 prior to the November 2012 election is purely political.”
A look at key factors in the 2012 presidential election.
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There is every reason to believe that courts increasingly will be called upon to play the role of the loyal opposition. The Associated Press reported last week that after the 2012 elections, all but three states — Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire — have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest number since 1928.
The Supreme Court already has two cases on its docket concerning voting. One examines whether an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship before someone may register to vote conflicts with federal voter registration laws.
The other tests the constitutionality of a key provision in the Voting Rights Act — Section 5 — which requires some states and local jurisdictions, most of them in the South, to receive federal approval before changing their voting laws.
Proponents of the law note that the Justice Department used Section 5 to object to new laws from Texas, Florida and South Carolina, and judges either blocked the laws from going into effect or required changes to mitigate harm to minority voters.
But opponents say it makes no sense, nearly 40 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, to require federal approval for South Carolina’s voter ID law but not Pennsylvania’s.
The legal battles of the 2012 election will serve as a backdrop for the court’s deliberations.