Opinion and good run-down of what might happen after Pennsylvania voting rights ruling, expected this week. I vaguely remember the author of this piece, Michael Smerconish, from the 2008 election as someone who appeared to lean Republican but wanted to be seen as “reasonable” – a Republican who wants to be LIKED – so I can’t vouch for the tea-leaf-reading part of the piece.
It is, however, a good explanation of what might happen next in the Pennsylvania voting rights lawsuit, whichever way the lower court judge rules:
With the testimony concluded in the challenge to the state’s voter-ID law, a decision is soon expected from Judge Robert Simpson of Commonwealth Court. Regardless of what he decides, this matter is destined for the state Supreme Court, which currently consists of six, rather than the customary seven, members. Republican Justice Joan Orie Melvin was recently suspended after being criminally charged, leaving the court with three Republicans and three Democrats, and Castille in a position of power.
When Simpson’s ruling is evaluated, Justices Baer, Todd, and McCaffery might line up in opposition to the law. Justices Eakin and Saylor could take the opposite tack. Castille would constitute the sixth vote, and any 3-3 tie would simply uphold what Simpson rules.
Here are two scenarios:
If Simpson overturns the law and the remainder of the court splits along partisan lines, Castille could become a fourth vote in support of the overturning, or could be the third vote in disagreement. Either way, Simpson’s overturning would stand.
But if Simpson supports the state constitutionality of voter ID, and the remainder of the court splits along partisan lines, Castille would be the decisive vote. He would either become a critical fourth vote to overturn Simpson’s ruling, or a third vote of affirmation.
By this logic, should Simpson overturn voter ID, the law would likely stay overturned. But if he upholds the law, all eyes would shift to Castille to see whether he would stand in the way of this becoming Pennsylvania’s partisan equivalent of Bush v. Gore.
In the voter ID case, the commonwealth acknowledges that there is not a single known case of the type of voter impersonation the new law seeks to preclude, and, by the state’s estimate, nearly one million voters lack the primary form of acceptable photo ID. Thus, it would seem that only a partisan opinion could sustain the new law. That’s a legacy I doubt Castille will embrace.
Castille was elected to the bench in 1993 at a time when the commonwealth’s highest court needed a rebranding in the aftermath of a scandal. He might soon cement that legacy by again ruling based on merit and not politics.
I don’t watch much opinion banter on tv but I spend a lot of time in the car and I have satellite radio, so I sometimes listen there. Has Ed Rendell spoken on this issue at all in his new role as pundit? I would think he’d feel some duty to speak up given his background and career as a Democrat in Pennsylvania.