Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Closing arguments in the case of Jim Crow on trial in Pennsylvania began on Wednedsday. Lawyer: Pa. agrees, no evidence of fraud:
A lawyer for plaintiffs said the state's new voter identification law should be blocked from taking effect because as many as one million people lack proper identification and could be prevented from voting on Election Day, while a Commonwealth attorney said the law should stand because it places no special burdens on any class of people.
Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said not only will the law disenfranchise the petitioners that he represents, but the Commonwealth has agreed there is no evidence of in person voter fraud - the very basis on which the law was approved.
"There are registered voters who will be unable to vote under this law," said Walczak in his closing arguments on the final day of the weeklong hearing. "The Commonwealth has not assured us that every one of the petitioners can vote and that's the tip of the iceberg."
In testimony at trial, Witnesses say state isn't ready for voter ID rule:
PennDot offices throughout the state seem ill-equipped to handle the expected demands of voters seeking state-issued identification cards, according to witnesses Tuesday in Commonwealth Court.
In recent visits, the witnesses said they found long lines, short hours and misinformed clerks, all of which made obtaining voter identification cumbersome, and in some cases impossible, for those that don't have supporting documentation.
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"There is a burden associated with this law and a burden on a fundamental right is unconstitutional," said Marian Schneider, a lawyer with the Advancement Project, a civil rights group.
Four other witnesses from across the state - all of whom already have PennDot issued licenses - went to driver's license centers at the behest of voters' rights groups seeking to determine the difficulty in obtaining IDs.
All reported roadblocks such as limited or no public transportation to PennDot offices; limited hours when authorized employees were available; and clerks who said there was a $13.50 charge for the IDs, which, in fact, are to be issued free.
Lawyers are seeking an injunction ahead of the Nov. 6 election when the law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature is to take effect.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson said he would issue his ruling the week of Aug. 13. Both sides have said they will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
UPDATE: Closing arguments in the trial over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law wrapped up Thursday.
Opponents of the controversial law are feeling pretty good about their odds of prevailing. Pa. Voter ID Opponents Expect They’ll Prevail:
“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.
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.