Government
6:18 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Voter ID Court Hearing Begins Today

Groups opposed to the state's voter ID law plan to outline their case in Commonwealth Court beginning this morning. They're suing the state to block the implementation of the measure requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Marian Schneider of the Advancement Project, a civil rights and policy center based in Washington, said it violates the state constitution.

"Article One, Section Five of Pennsylvania's constitution guarantees that elections shall be free and equal and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage," Schneider said.

However, lawyers for the commonwealth argue the state is well within its rights to govern state elections, and say there's plenty of time before the November 6 election for voters to obtain proper photo ID. They even point to efforts by the Department of State to offer a new voter ID card to those who have trouble obtaining the necessary identifying documents.

Attorney David Gersch said he's not satisfied with the new voter ID card state officials say they'll offer to voters who can't provide all the necessary identifying documents. "When we took discovery as recently as last week, they were still working out the details of how they were going to do this and what they were going to require," Gersch said.

Gersch noted one million registered voters in Pennsylvania don't have the photo identification they'll need at the polls. "And if you've listened to the proponents of the law over these many months, you would have the impression that everyone either has photo ID or they can easily get it. Their message is photo ID is used for everything, what's the big deal? It is a big deal," Gersch said.

Within the past month, the state has revised its estimate about how many registered voters don't have a PennDOT photo ID from 1% without such a license, to as much as 9%.

The hearing is expected to last into next week.