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Politics & Government

Opponents To Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law Make Their Case In Court

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Plaintiffs in a case to strike down the state's voter ID law say they won't be able to obtain the proper photo identification needed to vote because they couldn't obtain the proper paperwork. Six people testified on the first day of a hearing in Commonwealth Court to ask that the law not be enforced in the November election.

David Gersch, one of the attorneys suing the state, said even when people do have their birth certificate or Social Security card, the documents may be at odds with their current name.

"People's birth certificate or their social security card is in one name, the name they have later on is a different name, that's why what's going on right now is making it very difficult," Gersch said.

In opening arguments, the commonwealth said a discussion of voter fraud is irrelevant, and has no bearing on the voter ID law's constitutionality. but Vic Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, said it's still important to mention that there have been no acknowledged instances of in-person voter fraud, because voter ID was passed on the premise that it could deter fraud.

"The commonwealth very much wants to take voter fraud out of the discussion because there ain't no voter fraud to talk about, so obviously, they say, 'We don't want to talk about it,'" Walczak said.

Earlier in the week, the commonwealth's lead counsel stipulated that the state had no evidence of in-person voter fraud.

Most of the commonwealth's cross-examination questions highlighted the fact that the witnesses would be able to go to a PennDOT licensing center without trouble.

In the end, Gersch said it was a good day in court. "I think what we established today and what we're going to establish throughout the trial is that there are a lot of people for various reasons who have a very hard time getting ID. They don't have the ID to begin with. They have a hard time dealing with the bureaucracy in terms of the state in terms of trying to get the ID," Gersch said.

The state attorneys also made the point that the witnesses would be able to supply the information needed to get a special voting ID card the commonwealth expects to be ready in late August.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson must decide whether to block the law from taking effect in this year's election as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality. Simpson said he expects to issue a ruling the week of August 13 but anticipates that the case will ultimately wind up in the state Supreme Court.