Oct 10, 201211:41 AMCity Beat
Capital Opinion by Michael A. Sand, Jacqueline G. Goodwin and others.
Injuction Extends 'Soft Rollout' of Voter ID Law
Voters can be asked for a photo ID in the coming statewide election Nov. 6, but they can vote even if they don't have one, says the ruling from Commonwealth Court Judge Robin Simpson ruled.
The state’s Voter ID law was partially enjoined by Simpson so that, essentially, the “soft rollout” of the law will be extended until after the Nov. 6 general election.
“I will enjoin enforcement of those provisions of Act 18 which amend the provisional ballot procedures of the Election Code and cause disenfranchisement based on failure to present photo ID for in-person voting,” Simpson wrote in his opinion.
“The injunction will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of Act 18 through the general election," he wrote. Simpson also commanded the state to give those seeking state photo ID access to the free Department of State ID even if they have not tried to get other ID with more demanding requirements.
The ruling is more sweeping than the idea Simpson floated during last week’s hearing when he suggested suspending only the photo ID proving requirement for those who cast provisional ballots. In his opinion, Simpson rejected a suggestion from state attorneys to require those without ID to sign an affirmation if they don’t have a photo ID and need to cast a provisional ballot.
“Respondents [the commonwealth] suggest that a qualified elector be asked to produce proof of identification, but be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. This argument fails to acknowledge the General Assembly’s express intent that during the transition into full implementation of Act 18, an otherwise qualified elector need not cast a provisional ballot.”
Simpson also said the new procedures rolled out last week by the Department of State and PennDOT, to liberalize access to photo IDs for voting, would not “cure the deficiency in liberal access identified by the Supreme Court.” But he said the testimony from two state officials about the procedural changes “are extensive, surpassing predictions made in the earlier hearing.”
Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason said in a statement: “I am disappointed by today’s ruling to postpone the full implementation of a commonsense reform that helps protect the sanctity of our electoral process.
"We shouldn’t have to wait for this commonsense reform to be enacted. With that being said, Voter ID is still Pennsylvania law, was found to be constitutional and we will work to encourage voters to bring their photo identification with them to the polls.
“Poll after poll has shown that Pennsylvanians from both political parties overwhelmingly support Voter ID legislation because, despite the empty rhetoric to the contrary, this legislation is still about ensuring one person, one vote. Our Party remains committed to the citizens of the Commonwealth and we will do all that we can to ensure free and fair elections.”
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said the injunction was "a victory for voting rights."
"The court order ensures that no citizen will be deprived of the constitutional right to vote as a result of the voter suppression law pushed through by Gov. Corbett and Republican legislators, at least not this year," he said in a statement.
The law is popular among voters in Pennsylvania, according to recent polling. A Quinnipiac University poll from last week showed 62 percent support the law while 35 percent do not. A Franklin and Marshall College poll showed 59 percent favor the law while 39 percent do not.