2012 Top Stories: Voter ID

Written by Megan Lello | Dec 27, 2012 4:31 AM

(Undated) -- Whether or not Pennsylvanians would have to show photo identification at the polls last month was one of the most contentious issues debated in the state's courts this year.

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Many Pennsylvania Republicans said the voter ID bill that was signed into law in March was designed to prevent in-person voter fraud.

But Democrats claimed the move was really politically-motivated, aimed at keeping certain groups that tend to vote Democratic, like the elderly, minorities, poor, and young people, from casting ballots.

State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican from Allegheny County, didn't necessarily help quash those claims with a comment he made at a Republican State Committee meeting in June. "Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done."

Turzai later said he meant the law would help level the playing field by cutting fraud, opening up the door for Republican candidates to win more votes.

But the law was challenged in Commonwealth Court in July.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said the measure was unconstitutional, and there wouldn't be enough time for voters to get the proper form of ID, such as a driver's license, U.S. military ID, or state-issued voter ID card, in time for November's election.

Many Pennsylvanians also said they were confused about what they needed to do to get an ID, including Lisa Gray of Delaware County, who testified in court. "I don't think that there's anything about me that would disqualify me from voting. I'm not too young, I'm not mentally disabled, or whatever you want to call it. You know, so it's sort of like petty things that should not interfere with a citizen's ability to exercise a basic right."

What's more, Vic Walczak of the ACLU echoed several studies that said voter fraud wasn't even an issue in the state. "The commonwealth very much wants to take voter fraud out of the discussion because there ain't no voter fraud to talk about, so obviously they say, 'We don't want to talk about it.'"

The Corbett administration had to backtrack after its initial estimate that only one percent of PA's registered voters would be without ID turned out to be significantly lower than the actual number: around 9 percent, or about 750,000 people.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson upheld the law, but the ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ordered Simpson to revisit his decision.

In October, just more than a month before the election, Simpson ruled that the state didn't do enough to get IDs in voters' hands, so people would be asked, but not required to show ID when casting ballots in November.

A full trial on the constitutionality of the law is expected to take place sometime next summer, when debate on one of the state's most controversial laws passed this year will ramp up again.

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