Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral argument in the appeal from the Commonwealth Court’s refusal to enjoin enforcement of the Photo ID Law. A transcript is not yet available, but you can get a sense (obviously biased) of some of the highlights from the argument on the ACLU of PA’s twitter feed. Just scroll down to the tweets from this morning.
There was a very interesting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday relating to an issue raised by one of the Republican Justices at oral argument that, as far as I know, no one previously has mentioned.
Specifically, the Photo ID Law provides that: “[T]he Department of Transportation shall issue an identification card described in 75 Pa.C.S. § 1510(b) at no cost to any registered elector who has made application therefor and has included with the completed application a statement signed by the elector declaring under oath or affirmation that the elector does not possess proof of identification as defined in section 102(z.5)(2) and requires proof of identification for voting purposes.”
The identification card described in 75 Pa.C.S. § 1510(b) is a “secure” ID. Under Federal law, PennDOT cannot issue a secure ID unless the applicant provides identification documents, such as a birth certificate, social security card, and proofs of residence.
Therefore, PennDOT is prohibited by Federal law from issuing a free secure ID to an elector who does exactly what the Photo ID Law says — completes an application and signs a statement saying he lacks ID to vote. In other words, the Commonwealth cannot comply with the statute as drafted. Justice Saylor got the Commonwealth’s lawyer to concede this point on the record.
I’m not sure where Justice Saylor was going with the point, but he must have something in mind to have focused on the issue.