Today, in a courtroom in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held a hearing to determine whether Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson was correct in his verdict [PDF] last month when he stunned plaintiffs by upholding the state GOP's polling place Photo ID restriction and refusing the ACLU/Advancement Project's motion for a temporary injunction before this November's Presidential Election.
The voting rights groups are challenging the law on behalf of eight, mostly elderly, plaintiffs plus the League of Women Voters of PA and the NAACP and other civil rights groups, as a violation of the state Constitution's guaranteed right to vote. Last week, The BRAD BLOG's Ernie Canning detailed their powerful appellant's brief, arguing that Simpson erred in his ruling.
The plaintiffs had originally predicted a "slam dunk" victory in the lower court case, given the remarkably poor presentation offered by the Commonwealth, and the myriad of evidence presented in their favor, showing that some 1.6 million otherwise eligible voters could be disenfranchised this November, in addition to the state's own admission before the trial began that the Commonwealth was unaware of any "investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania" and that no "in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absence of the Photo ID law."
So today's hearing was key and, according to The Nation's Ari Berman, was played out before "a packed, standing room only courtroom."
While the state Supreme Court currently consists of three Democrats and three Republicans (the fourth Republican judge on the bench is currently suspended, pending a corruption investigation), a split verdict would mean the lower court's decision to allow the GOP's restriction on voting would stand.
But there were hints today that at least one Republican judge may be skeptical about the state's claims that nobody need be disenfranchised by the GOP-enacted law which would take effect, for the first time, in the November Presidential election, just 54 days from now...