HARRISBURG, Pa. — A trial set to begin Monday on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law represents a major step toward a judicial ruling on whether the photo requirement should be enforced at polling places statewide or thrown out as unconstitutional.
Nine days are set aside for the trial in Harrisburg in Commonwealth Court. Civil libertarians challenging the law and state officials defending it say they expect the state Supreme Court will ultimately decide the case.
At issue is a voter-ID law that would be one of the strictest in the nation if it is upheld but which has never been enforced.
After legal jousting that reached the state Supreme Court, Judge Robert Simpson blocked enforcement in last year’s presidential election and again in this year’s municipal and judicial primary because of lingering concern that it could disenfranchise voters who lacked a valid photo ID.
The 2012 law was approved without any Democratic votes by the legislature’s Republican majority and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett (R) amid a bitterly contested White House race in which President Obama, a Democrat, ultimately carried Pennsylvania and was reelected.
Critics derided the law as a cynical GOP effort to discourage young adults, minorities, the elderly, the poor and the disabled from going to the polls. Republicans said most Pennsylvanians have driver’s licenses to use as photo ID and claimed that the law would discourage voter fraud.
The judge’s verdict may be reviewed by a Commonwealth Court panel before an inevitable appeal to the state Supreme Court by the losing side.