Lawyers outline arguments to judge on Pennsylvania voter ID law
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's pending voter-identification law — one of the strictest in the nation — would turn the right to vote into a privilege and disenfranchise a large number of voters, an attorney for the plaintiffs said as a trial on a constitutional challenge got under way on Monday.
The lawyer, Michael Rubin, charged that the Republican majority in the Legislature and GOP Gov. Tom Corbett rebuffed suggested changes to accommodate the special needs of certain groups, such as older people with limited mobility, in obtaining a photo ID that the law requires all voters to show at the polls before they may cast ballots.
Faced with a choice, “almost invariably ... they chose to make it harder,” Rubin, a Washington attorney who is a member of the plaintiffs' legal team, told Judge Bernard McGinley.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Timothy Keating argued that the plaintiffs, who include the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, the NAACP and Philadelphia's Homeless Advocacy Project, lack the evidence to overturn the law.
In Pennsylvania, a law approved by the Legislature is presumed to be constitutional unless evidence shows that it “clearly, palpably and plainly violates the constitution,” and the evidence in this case falls short, Keating maintained.
Keating said special provisions have been made to help seniors, veterans and college students obtain acceptable IDs. A special, free ID card for voters who lack a state driver's license or ID card issued by the state Department of Transportation or other acceptable ID is available through the Pennsylvania Department of State.
“Hundreds of thousands” of Pennsylvanians, who are disproportionately low-income, elderly and minorities, won't be able to vote under the state's law enacted in 2012, Rubin said.
The law requires voters to show photo ID, such as driver's licenses, municipal government, nursing home, college or military IDs, before casting a ballot. Put on hold last year shortly before the presidential election because of a court challenge, the case is back before Commonwealth Court on whether to overturn the law.
The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
McGinley, a Democrat, sat on a dais beneath a blue Commonwealth Court seal overlooking a packed courtroom of about 60 people — about one-third of them reporters; another third. advocates and lobbyists; and another third, lawyers.
Keating said requiring voters without ID to go to a PennDOT center and have a photo taken is “not unduly burdensome.”
Keating said that there are 8 million registered voters in Pennsylvania and that fewer than 6 million voted in the last election.
PennDOT issues more than 9 million licenses and IDs, he said.
A new Department of State ID will be issued to registered voters without documentation, state officials say.
Under Act 18, “anyone registered to vote in Pennsylvania, who wants to vote, can,” Keating said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow, freezing rain, bitter cold coming to Western Pa.
- Petrishen at ease with decision to play football at Penn State
- Pens again fail to mount comeback against Nashville
- Homemade hockey rink popular in Lower Burrell
- Pittsburgh Street in Cheswick to remain closed Monday
- Penguins notebook: Pouliot heading west with team
- Senator Toomey, GOP target Obamacare
- Tennessee’s Peterman to enroll at Pitt in May
- France supports renegotiating Greek debt
- Hong Kong protesters return
- Iraqi libraries ransacked