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Constitutional Law Expert Carol Nackenoff Weighs in on PA Voter ID Law

Delaware County Daily Times: Reactions mixed on voter ID law ruling


Political science professor Carol Nackenoff, an expert on constitutional law who has taught at Swarthmore College for 20 years, explained that the lawsuit was a facial challenge, meaning a challenge on the face of the law before it has been put into effect. Simpson did not rule on the merits of the law, just on the injunction.

"It is important to remember that it's very hard to win a challenge before a law goes into effect. Usually, the injury already has to happen and there has to be proof that people have been disenfranchised by the law or have had an undue burden placed on them by the law," said Nackenoff.

She noted that when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the facial challenge to Indiana's voter ID law in 2008, it helped set the stage for other states to pass similar laws.

"We really don't know how the law is going to work yet," said Nackenoff, who has taught a course on American elections every presidential election year since 1988, when she was on the faculty of Bard College in New York.

The professor noted that state officials are making some modifications to the law, expected to be announced later this month, that will make forms of ID other than birth certificates acceptable.

"They're trying to back off of some of the more stringent requirements in the law that were originally announced," said Nackenoff.

She noted that some modifications have already been made, such as allowing nursing home and assisted-living facility administrators to issue residents photo ID cards with expiration dates that they can use to vote. Nevertheless, Nackenoff said the law will still present problems for some voters.

"It will certainly inconvenience a number of people and it will certainly make it impossible for some people to meet the requirements," said Nackenoff.

She predicted that the law will also cause confusion for some polling place workers.

"Even if polling place workers are trained, they are still going to interpret the law differently," said Nackenoff. "No matter what kind of ID is called for, there will be mistakes made." ...

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