Pa. Voter ID Opponents Expect ‘Slam Dunk Victory’ In State Trial

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Closing arguments in the trial over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law wrapped up Thursday, and opponents of the controversial law are feeling pretty good about their odds of prevailing.

“We think that the case is overwhelming, both on the facts — the factual record is just incredible — and that we’ve met the legal standard for preliminary injunction,” Penda D. Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, told TPM. The Advancement Project — along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Arnold & Porter LLP — filed the suit on behalf of 10 Pennsylvania voters.

“The state really put up very little defense: hardly any witnesses. Mostly they just said they should be able to do this because they’re the state, and I don’t think that’s going to be sufficient when you’re talking about the state constitution’s protection of the free exercise of the franchise,” Hair said Thursday.“We think this should be a slam dunk victory for plaintiffs which should result in a preliminary injunction,” she added.

Among the reasons they’re feeling confident (according to an Advancement Project press release): state officials admitted they underestimated the number of registered voters without acceptable photo ID, admitted the law will disenfranchise voters, admitted the law will hold different voters to different standards, admitted voters casting an absentee ballot will be able to vote without ID, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State admitted she didn’t know details about the law’s requirements and Pennsylvania’s House majority leader made comments opponents of the law believe showed the law is politically motivated.

The law, passed by a Republican controlled legislature and signed by a Republican governor, is expected to have a major impact on heavily Democratic areas of the state like Philadelphia. Judge Robert Simpson said he would rule by August 13.

Hair told TPM that she believed the multiple witnesses in the case who would have trouble voting under the law, including a 93-year-old who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave the public a better view of the consequences of voter ID laws, which polls indicate the majority of Americans support.

“What I would say to members of the public like myself and probably you who walk around with driver’s licenses and other IDs in our wallets is that the constitution protects everybody,” Hair said. “People need to put themselves in other peoples’ shoes and ask ‘do I really want to disenfranchise my neighbor because they don’t have the same kind of ID that I might have?'”

Separately, a panel of federal judges are expected to rule on a voter ID law in Texas, which unlike Pennsylvania is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, while a trial over South Carolina’s voter ID law is on the horizon. The Justice Department is also investigating Pennsylvania’s law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

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