by Chris Potter
More on this later today, but as you've no doubt heard, a state Commonwealth Court has upheld the controversial Voter ID law. You can read the ruling for yourself here.
The short version: It's pretty much a disaster for the ACLU and those seeking to overturn the law. Judge Robert Simpson largely wrote off the plaintiffs' claims of hardship, dismissed their expert as biased. In a footnote, he suggested plaintiffs had "inflated" the number of voters who would be burdened by the requirements. (Simpson himself estimated that "somewhat more than 1 percent and significantly less than 9 percent" of voters likely lacked IDs.) He faulted the ACLU for presenting "speculation" about the potential for Election Day confusion, arguing that such arguments dealt with how the law might be applied, rather than how it was written -- the only thing he could judge. In any case, he wrote that he was "convinced" voter ID "will be implemented by the Commonwealth in a non-partisan, even-handed manner," and that state agencies "will fully educate the public."
That's not to say Simpson always found state witnesses credible. At one point, he asked Elections Bureau head Jonathan Marks how the state's work would be affected if he, or the Supreme Court, took action to interfere with the law. Marks' response:
I think ultimately in either circumstance, we would find a way to comply ... [I]t will make our communications with the counties a little more fast-paced more so than we would like, but I think ultimately we would pull it off.
In his ruling, Simpson called that answer "equivocal," and added "everyone in the courtroom could see his reaction: alarm, concern, and anxiety at the prospect of an injunction. His demeanor tells the story."
So on the rare occasion when Simpson didn't find a state witness entirely credible, it was to justify upholding the law.
The ACLU will be holding a press conference later today, and an appeal to the state Supreme Court seems inevitable. It also seems like a long-shot, since the Supreme Court would have to overrule Simpson by a 4-2 majority.