Pennsylvania judge refuses to block voter ID law

[JURIST] A judge for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] on Wednesday declined to issue an injunction [order, PDF] to prevent the state's voter ID law [HB 943 materials] from taking effect. The plaintiffs in the case are Pennsylvania residents who lack photo ID. They argued that HB 943 will disenfranchise a large number of voters and that Pennsylvania's rationale of preventing voter fraud is unfounded. Pennsylvania argued that HB 943 is necessary to ensure the integrity of elections and that the legislature acted within its purview. In declining to block enforcement of the voter ID law, Judge Robert Simpson determined that under the US Supreme Court's precedent in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board [LII backgrounder], the voter ID law does not impose an unconstitutional burden on Pennsylvania residents who lack photo ID:

Employing the 'flexible' standard discussed in Crawford in the context of a very similar state statute in Indiana, I reach the same conclusions the United States Supreme Court reached. ... Thus, the photo ID requirement ... is a reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden when viewed in the widespread use of photo ID in daily life. The Commonwealth's asserted interest in protecting public confidence in elections is a relevant and legitimate state interest sufficiently weighty to justify the burden.
The plaintiffs plan to appeal the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court [official website].

In July the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that it would investigate Pennsylvania's voter ID law [JURIST report]. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania [advocacy website] challenged the law [petition for review, PDF; JURIST report] in May, asking a court to block enforcement of the law in the upcoming November elections. The group claims that the new law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution [text] and will prevent eligible voters from casting their votes. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett [official website] signed the bill into law [JURIST report] in March. It was passed earlier that week in the House of Representatives by a vote of 104-88. Supporters of the proposed legislation said that it will combat voter fraud. Unlike the current trend of voter ID laws, Pennsylvania's allows voters to vote without an ID as long as they verify their identity within six days of voting. Absentee ballots will also only require identification by Social Security number. 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.

 

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