PHILADELPHIA–– In the cool morning air, protesters gathered outside the Philadelphia Municipal Services building, holding signs and banners speaking out against the Pennsylvania voter ID law at the Supreme Court’s widely publicized hearing.
At about 8:30 a.m., the protesters lined up at City Hall to get a seat in the Supreme Court room, which spilled into a standing–room–only overflow room.
Those involved in the hearing, which lasted about an hour and a half, debated whether state voters should be forced to show a form of identification to vote in the general election on Nov. 6. The issues of timeliness and cases of voter fraud were some of the points the justices made from the bench.
No action was taken on the decision of voter ID and no action was expected to be taken.
Many against the law questioned what the “rush” was in implementing the voter ID law so close to the upcoming election. While Justice Seamus McCaffery said that photo identification is a reasonable request, the time frame, however, is being questioned.
McCaffery asked each lawyer if a period of two federal elections would suffice as an appropriate amount of time to enact the voter ID law.
David Gersch, an attorney representing those who wanted to appeal the law, said that would be an acceptable amount of time to obtain a voter ID.
However, Chief Deputy Attorney General John Knorr and Alfred Putnam, an attorney for Gov. Tom Corbett, said the amount of time should not be taken into consideration, bringing in the argument that voters have had since March to obtain an ID.
Knorr said that most people have the ability to obtain a voter ID. Putnam said the voter ID law was passed in March and the appeals didn’t happen until May, which he said gave people plenty of time to get a proper ID for Election Day.
Drew McGehrin, president of the Penn State College Democrats, said the timing wouldn’t make a difference in people’s support for or against the law.
“It’s an unnecessary law for a problem that didn’t really exist in the first place,” McGehrin (senior-religious studies and history) said.
But Jordan Harris, chair of the Penn State College Republicans, said time wasn’t a big issue, but a stall tactic that was used by those against the law.
“If the intentions of the law were as honest as they intended them to be, I don’t see anything wrong with [the law],” Harris (senior-history) said.
Though the law was intended to protect against voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd said the law doesn’t have a strong definition of voter fraud, or even a lot of cases of it in Pennsylvania.
When asked, Knorr was unable to give specific cases of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
Gersch argued that for some people, getting an identification card is tough.
He said that nine counties in the state do not have Pennsylvania Department of Transportation facilities, while 10 counties have the facilities, but are only open one day of the week.
Gersch said that with the short amount of time until the election, getting an identification card is tough for some people. He also said that one to nine percent of the state’s population does not have the proper identification to vote.
Yet, Harris said he commends groups who have been informing voters in a non-partisan way how to get the ID necessary to vote.
He said he doesn’t care what political ideology a person holds, as long as they get out and vote.
“I want their vote to be counted and I’m glad that groups are working to get people informed,” he said.
This week, Penn State made available to all students expiration date stickers to put on their id+ cards to be able to vote. According to the voter ID law, as it stands, a person needs to have a photo ID with an expiration date on it.
To email reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org