A commonwealth court judge is expected to rule on the future of the state's controversial voter ID law in a little more than a week. The announcement of a goal of August 13th for a decision came as lawyers for both sides wrapped up closing arguments Thursday.
The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups were asking the judge to postpone the implementation of the law that requires all voters to present an approved photo ID before casting a ballot. It is set to be implemented in the November general election, but the plaintiffs hope to have the law put on hold until after a court can hear arguments over the constitutionality of the law.
Vic Walczak of the ACLU was among the lawyers arguing for the stay. He argued the state couldn't ensure that eligible voters without valid ID are going to be able to get it before the November election, and therefore, the voter ID law should be halted.
"Our argument is this law is so clearly unconstitutional, the danger of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people being disenfranchised is so great that you need to enjoin this law as soon as possible," said Walczak.
Patrick Cawley, a deputy state Attorney General defending the measure, said the commonwealth will be harmed if the photo identification law is halted midway through its rollout. "It started with small steps and those steps have gotten bigger and more intense and will continue to intensify toward November. So, to the extent that an injunction disrupts that process, it's not only a waste of resources, but it also confuses the voters who are on the receiving end of the message," said Cawley.
The ACLU's Walczak said the state has botched the implementation of the law. "The commonwealth issues a press release: 'Here are the criteria for getting ID,' and then they change those criteria, and issue another press release, and now they're going to change that again, and they haven't even issued the details on that. It's not coming out for months. Any way you slice it or dice it, it's already a mess," Walczak said.
The Corbett administration has budgeted $1 million to implement the law, in addition to $5 million in federal voter education funds.
Both sides say if they lose, they'll appeal to the state Supreme Court.