Voter ID law suspended in Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania voters will be allowed to cast ballots in November, even without a photo ID. Image: kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)

A judge in Pennsylvania has blocked voting officials from enforcing a newly-passed tough voter ID law until after the November election. Some say the law was a means of limiting the number of poor and elderly, traditionally Democratic voters, from casting ballots in the state.

Voter ID law can not be enforced

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled on Oct. 2 that election officials are allowed to ask voters to show a photo ID. They can not, however,  stop those who do not present one from voting or from having their vote counted in the November presidential election.

The law, however, still stands for the next voting cycle.

Simpson ruled, after hearing testimony of how difficult and time consuming it may be to obtain a valid ID, that voters may not have adequate time before the election — five weeks away — to become compliant under the new law.

He ruled:

“I accept argument(s) that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed.”

Simpson had earlier declared the law constitutional.

Issue divided by parties

The issue of voter IDs has been a hotly debated topic during the current election. Democrats say the push to enact them by Republican lawmakers is a thinly-veiled attempt to restrict traditionally-liberal voters from access to the polls. Republicans argue it is merely an attempt to curb incidents of voter fraud.

According to an August report from the Washington Post, however, the incidents of individual voter fraud are very rare. Since the year 2000, it says, only ten valid cases have been found. A single vote has so little weight that it makes little sense for anyone to risk it.

The photo ID voting law was passed in the spring without a single Democratic vote. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R), who help push the new law through, said in June:

“Voter ID — which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”

Pennsylvania is considered a key “battleground” state in the election, and so the issue is an especially touchy one there. At this time, President Obama has a significant lead among polled voters.

Law may face more challenges

However, the standing law may yet be challenged in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Simpson has been ordered by the high court to revisit his earlier decision that the law was constitutional. A hearing has been set up for that discussion on Dec. 13.


Washington Post

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