UPDATED: Judge Upholds Voter ID Law
Will this decision stick? Both sides had said they would appeal this ruling.
Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law will stand … for now.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson released his decision Wednesday that parties challenging the Voter ID law were not able to prove it will cause “immediate and irreparable harm” to the electorate.
The challenge to the law was brought by voter advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.
It’s unclear what this decision will actually mean, since both sides had vowed to appeal the judgment if it didn’t go their way.
State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane urged voters not to wait for a possible Supreme Court ruling on the matter if it is appealed.
"They should educate themselves (on the proper identification necessary to vote) so there aren't any surprises on Nov. 6.," he said. "We want to make sure everyone who is eligible to vote is able to vote."
And Neuman invited constituents with questions about what identification qualifies to call his office.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, lauded the ruling in a statement.
“The integrity of each and every valid vote was upheld today. As the court said, the requirements of Act 18 will be implemented in a non-partisan, even-handed manner by Commonwealth agencies, and qualified voters will have their votes counted," he said. “The many election reforms enacted, including voter ID, are aimed to ensure citizens and registered voters have the right to vote and have their vote counted. It’s about one person, one vote, and each instance of fraud dilutes legitimate votes."
But the NAACP disagreed.
“The court had a chance to intercede the PA legislators’ attempt to suppress the vote on Election Day,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and chief executive officer of the NAACP regarding the ruling. “However, with today’s decision and the estimated amount of Pennsylvanians who lack the required photo ID, we will witness a marked decrease in voter turnout and in the number of ballots that will be counted on and after Election Day.”
The League of Women Voters also voiced its disdain for the ruling.
“We are disappointed that the Pennsylvania court has upheld this voter suppression law. Recently, when similar laws in other states have been reviewed by a court or the U.S. Department of Justice they have been deemed to be discriminatory, and we believe this to be the case in Pennsylvania,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
"When I started a petition calling on Allegheny County election officials not to enforce Pennsylvania's new voter I.D. law, I was sure my actions were unnecessary. Certainly the courts would strike down this new form of voter suppression which makes it impossible for 9 percent of the state's registered voters to cast a ballot," he said. "However, Judge Simpson's partisan ruling is yet another example of politics standing in the way of common sense, and Allegheny County Elections Manager Mark Wolosik needs to say no, to the full extent of his legal authority, to enforcing this law."
Pennsylvania passed a law in March requiring all registered voters to show a valid and “acceptable” photo ID before voting. This is one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation. That means every voter in Canonsburg, Cecil and North Strabane will need valid photo ID when they arrive at the polls.
Opponents of the law have long said it disproportionately targets the elderly as well as the poor and minorities, who typically vote Democrat. Furthermore, critics say that the burden of obtaining an acceptable ID for these people would keep them from voting.
Thirty states have some sort of Voter ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and of those, 19 do not require a photo, six require a photo and five, including Pennsylvania, have strict photo requirements.
In June, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald joined county Controller Chelsa Wagner in challenging the law. Wagner, a Democrat, has endorsed efforts in the courts to keep the law from taking effect before the election and her office filed an amicus brief in the challenge to the law.
Controversy over the law flared in June when state Democrats criticized a comment from Turzai about the newly enacted law.
Turzai's comment, which made its way to YouTube, was among several items he said had been accomplished on the Republican agenda.
On the video, he says: "Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
Do you agree or disagree with the Commonwealth Court decision? Let us know what you think in the comments section.