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Maya M. Noronha

Maya M. Noronha is the Policy Director of the Republican National Lawyers Association and is an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
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Give an Applewhite a Day to the PA Supreme Court

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 - by Maya M. Noronha

Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a baffling request for more information from a lower court, questioning whether voter identification cards would be available for voters.  The voter ID case should have been a slam dunk, but they are delaying.  Apparently, they are too scared to uphold the law without being giving an Applewhite, and many Applewhites a day.

Applewhite is Viviette Applewhite, the named plaintiff of the lawsuit who claimed that she could not get an ID… until, of course, she got it.  Applewhite obtained her photo ID the day after the Commonwealth Court upheld the law.  Her voter ID card demonstrates that the law is not actually burdensome, because if the ACLU were right, Applewhite would still be struggling to get identification.  Voter ID opponents and civic organizations have also been active in Pennsylvania to help Pennsylvanians get IDs.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is delaying issuing a final decision about the law based on speculative concerns about implementation, noting that even the voter ID opponents in court “acknowledged  that  there  is  no  constitutional  impediment  to  the  Commonwealth’s  implementation  of  a  voter  identification  requirement.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made the bizarre decision to “return the matter to the Commonwealth Court to make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification cards.”  They claimed that they “are not satisfied with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials, even though we have no doubt they are proceeding in good faith.”

Judge Simpson, who wrote the Commonwealth Court opinion upholding the law, was confident that the election officials “will fully educate the public” and will comply with state election law requirements and do so “in a non-partisan, even-handed manner.”

But finding those assurances “believable” was only part of the reason the Commonwealth Court upheld the law.  The law has provisions for student IDs and primary care facilities to help younger and older voters who may not have driver’s licenses or one of the many other forms of ID that are acceptable under the law.  According to the court, other considerations that demonstrate the law’s validity include “the enhanced availability of birth confirmation through the Department of Health for those born in Pennsylvania,” as well as “the availability of absentee voting, provisional ballots, and opportunities for judicial relief for those with special hardships.”  The law itself is not discriminatory.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court could have relied solely on the well-supported opinion written by Judge Simpson of the Commonwealth Court upholding the law and ended the limbo status of the Pennsylvania voter ID law by dismissing the poor case by voter ID opponents.  But, instead, the court is asking for information… information they already have.

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