Pennsylvania judge blocks voter ID law for upcoming election
Pennsylvania judge blocks voter ID law for upcoming election
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[JURIST] A judge for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [opinion, PDF] on Tuesday preventing Pennsylvania’s voter identification law [HB 943 materials] from taking effect for the upcoming presidential election. On remand from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website], Judge Robert Simpson enjoined enforcement of Act 18, which amended the provisional ballot section of the Election Code. Simpson held that Act 18 could cause voter disenfranchisement by requiring that all voters present a state issued or federal government issued photo ID in order to cast their ballot in the upcoming election. He explained that the photo ID requirements in the state’s voter ID law do not conform with the “liberal access” standard set out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Simpson reasoned:

First and foremost, the evidence is similar in kind to the prospective “assurances of government officials” testimony which the Supreme Court found an unsatisfactory basis for a “predictive judgment.” … Second, the proposed changes are to occur about five weeks before the general election, and I question whether sufficient time now remains to attain the goal of liberal access. Third, the proposed changes are accompanied by candid admissions by government officials that any new deployment will reveal unforeseen problems which impede implementation.

The preliminary injunction preventing Pennsylvania’s voter ID law will only remain in effect for the November election, as instructed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. With five weeks remaining until election day, this decision could still be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] remain a contentious issue in the US, particularly in the run-up to the November presidential election. There are now 32 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, but the issue remains controversial. Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the decision [JURIST reports] of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upholding the state’s new voter identification law and remanded for further consideration. The Supreme Court’s order, issued per curiam, suggested that it may be logistically impossible to implement the law by the November election, due to conflicts with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the primary outpost for obtaining photo ID acceptable to the new law. They remanded the case to the Commonwealth court to “consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards.”