State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Update: Partial injunction will uphold most of voter ID law

Written by Mary Wilson and The Associated Press | Oct 2, 2012 2:28 PM

Thumbnail image for commcourt0927.jpgThe Commonwealth Court judge has just released his order in the voter ID case, allowing most of the law to stand.  

Read the order below.

From our first early read, Judge Robert Simpson's injunction will allow voters without proper ID to vote normally -- they won't have to use provisional ballots.  The ruling essentially makes voter ID an option in the November election. 

From the Associated Press:

(Harrisburg) -- A judge is postponing Pennsylvania's tough new voter identification requirement, ordering that it not be enforced in the presidential election.

Tuesday's ruling comes just five weeks before the election. An appeal is possible. The 6-month-old law requires each voter to show a valid photo ID.

Democrats and groups including the AARP and NAACP mounted a furious opposition to a law Republicans say is necessary to prevent election fraud. Critics have accused Republicans of using old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics to steal the White House and have highlighted stories of registered voters struggling to get a state photo ID.

The law was already a partisan lightning rod when a top Republican lawmaker boasted that it'd allow GOP nominee Mitt Romney to beat Democratic President Barack Obama in Pennsylvania.

The AP also breaks down the major provisions of the 16-page ruling:

VOTERS WON'T NEED PHOTO ID:
Simpson issued an injunction against provisions of the law that would keep people from voting if they don't have photo identification. Those voters will not be required to follow an alternative procedure in which they would vote by a provisional ballot, and then prove their identity to county election officials within six days of the election. Instead, they will vote the same as others.

THE RULING ONLY EXTENDS TO THE COMING ELECTION:
The legal challenge to the law will continue before Simpson, with a status conference set for Dec. 13 in Harrisburg.

THE JUDGE SAID THE LAW COULD DISENFRANCHISE SOME VOTERS

Simpson said that with five weeks to go before the election, some people who would need photo IDs to vote might not get them in time.

VOTER EDUCATION ABOUT PHOTO ID WILL CONTINUE:
Opponents sought a ban on outreach and educational efforts regarding the need for photo ID. Simpson denied that request.

ELECTION OFFICIALS MAY STILL ASK FOR ID AT THE POLLS:
As occurred in the spring primary, voters can be asked for photo ID, but if they don't have one, they won't be kept from voting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE:
Supporters of the law framed it as a means to prevent voter fraud, and a key state House Republican lawmaker predicted it would be critical to helping presidential candidate Mitt Romney win the state. Opponents said it would result in qualified voters being unable to cast ballots that are counted.

At 11:30a, Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason issued a statement abour the ruling: 

“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.”

At 11:46a, state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai released his statement on the decision:

"Today's deicsion by the Commonwealth Court upholds Act 18, and voter identification, and that is good.  Voter Identification is about ensuring the integrity of our elections and preserving the principle of the 'One person, One vote' doctrine."

State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) issued this in a statement:

"The Corbett Administration was ill-prepared to comply with this troubling law.  I am pleased that the court realized that the law would have resulted in chaos on Election Day and the rights of hundreds of thousands of voters were in jeopardy. This decision, while a victory for voters, is the first step in the process of overturning the unjust law."

At 1:51p, the League of of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, a lead organizational plaintiff in the case, issued a statement:

"We are pleased with the decision of the court,” said Olivia Thorne President of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. The League is grateful for the time and effort extended by compelling witnesses whose stories represented the impact of this law on our cherished right to vote. “For now, we will continue to register new voters and provide nonpartisan candidate information through debates and our online voter’s guide SmartVoter.org .”


Check back for updates throughout the day. 

From the ruling:

"The injunction will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of Act 18 through the general election."

What it means: The "soft roll out" rules of the primary election will apply this November.  The judge has only blocked, temporarily, the part of the law that would have required voters without photo ID to cast provisional ballots, and then have those ballots counted only if they presented acceptable ID within six days of the election. 

Voter Id

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