Two of the Democrats on the state Supreme Court dominated questioning during oral arguments Thursday in Philadelphia over the challenge to Pennsylvania's new voter ID law.
Justice Seamus P. McCaffery questioned the motivation of the measure, which requires voters to present valid photo identification before going to the polls.
"Should we allow the legislature to, in what seems to me to be a political measure, to trample on the rights of our citizens?" McCaffery asked John Knorr III, chief deputy to the state's attorney general.
Knorr suggested that the justices follow the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 holding in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, a case involving a similar law in Indiana that was upheld on the grounds that the slight burden imposed by the voter ID law was outweighed by the state's legitimate interest in discouraging voter fraud.
But Justice Debra M. Todd suggested that the level of deference that the court owes to the legislature may be lower than usual in light of the impending state and federal elections, now less than 10 weeks away.
She also noted that there has been no evidence of voter impersonation and read from the commonwealth's stipulation, filed in the lower court, stating that there has been no investigation or prosecution and no knowledge of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
Floating a two-year timeframe for implementing the law, Todd asked Knorr, "What's the rush?"
The timing and the substance of the statute are up to the legislature, he answered.
Act 18 was passed and signed into law in March and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed its challenge two months later.
Defending the state's timeline, Alfred Putnam of Drinker Biddle & Reath said, "In fairness, the statute was passed in March and wasn't challenged until May. It wasn't passed yesterday."