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Commonwealth Court To Rule On Pa. Voter ID Law This Week

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The Commonwealth Court is expected to rule on the fate of Pennsylvania's voter ID law this week.  Although the actual impact of a ruling is unclear, grassroots organizations say they will continue voter education efforts on the law until there is a final decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

This Week's Decision Could Leave Uncertainty

When the hearing on the voter ID law ended in Harrisburg 10 days ago, both the Commonwealth and the ALCU said they would appeal if they lost the case.  This means whether voters will need ID at the polls in November could remain uncertain until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issues a decision.

"There's huge questions that remain to be answered before we vote," says Franklin and Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna.  He says there are several possible outcomes to a decision-- the Commonwealth Court could strike down the law and then the Supreme Court could uphold it or vice versa.

"If they uphold the law, would that mean a huge additional scramble to try to get people qualified to get the photo IDs, those that don't have it," he says.  Madonna points out that a big problem is that no one seems to know exactly how many voters need ID, which makes it difficult to gauge how the law, if upheld, could ultimately impact the presidential election.  "Everybody's speculating about something we just don't know," he says.

Madonna says if the law was in effect on Election Day, the difference between the votes for President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania would have to be close for the voter ID law to swing the ultimate result.

"We don't know precisely how close it would have to be because we don't know precisely how many people would be affected given the multiplicity of reports about the number of people that could be adversely affected," says Madonna.

Department of state and ACLU figures on the number of voters without valid photo ID has ranged from 80,000 to more than a million registered voters.

Impact of Decision on Grassroots Voter Education Efforts

Voter education groups will likely continue outreach to voters even if the Commonwealth Court enjoins the voter ID law this week, says Joe Certaine of the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition. "The reality is, it's not over until it's over," he says.  "We've instructed all of our people, regardless of what they hear or what they read in the paper about the Commonwealth Court ruling, we still have to continue our education program until there is a ruling by the Supreme Court on this case."

The coalition's volunteers spent the weekend canvassing an area of Germantown within the 8th councilmanic district, where the number of voters without ID is predicted to be one of the highest in the city of Philadelphia.

Luke, a second year at Temple Law School was one of the dozen volunteers who handed out voter ID information on Saturday morning.

"There are a lot of people that don't have a proper form of ID and others that may not know the law passed.  Whether these people vote your way or not, I think it's important to democracy that they have an equal opportunity to make it to the polls this November."

The Voter ID Coalition is made up of dozens of grassroots organizations, including churches and non-partisan groups, like the Committee of Seventy.  Certaine says the coalition has not taken a position on the law itself, but is focused on voter education.

"Our position is- the law is the law and people have to be informed and educated on how to comply with the requirements of Act 18," he says.

For more info or to volunteer, click here or call 215-848-1283.

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