Judge Simpson Rules, Voter ID Law Stands (Updated)

Judge Simpson ruled this morning to deny the injunction to prevent the Voter ID law from going into effect for this November's elections.

Pennsylvania’s most controversial law of the year is still planned to go into effect, after a ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.

Simpson decided this morning and issued a 70-page opinion denying the plaintiffs an injunction to stop the law.

The ACLU had argued that many voting blocs – including senior citizens, students, minorities and the poor – would be barred from casting their ballots if the law was upheld. Simpson did not see it that way.

The docket sheet read: “After hearing and after consideration of the oral and written arguments of counsel, it is ordered and decreed as follows: Petitioners’ Application for Preliminary Injunction is denied.”

He also pointed to the decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding an Indiana Voter ID law despite the absence – and proof of the absence – of voter fraud in the state. Simpson said the lack of fraud does not mean that the law cannot stand.

Furthermore, to have obtained the injunction, six criteria must be have been met by the plaintiffs.

It must be proved that the injunction is the only way to prevent “immediate and irreparable” damage that cannot be compensated with monetary reward; that greater harm would come from not granting the injunction; that the injunction will restore both parties to the “status quo” that existed before (in this case, before the law was passed); that the petitioner is likely to prevail in a full trial on the merits of their case; that the injunction is reasonably suited to prevent the “offending activity”; and that the public interest will not be harmed if the injunction is granted.

Simpson ruled that the plaintiffs failed to meet three of the standards.

Immediate and irreparable harm

First, he said that there is no proof that the plaintiffs would be inevitably disenfranchised, and the argument that PennDOT workers unaware of the law’s provisions would attempt to charge fees for the ID were harms that could be resolved monetarily by compensation for the paid fees.

He also said that the Department of State and other agencies showed their commitment to educating the public about the law – he also cited the new IDs to be issued by the Department of State as one of the ways many problems presented by the plaintiffs could be resolved, as well as the removal of red tape from obtaining necessary documents to get ID.

He added that he is “not convinced any qualified elector need be disenfranchised.”

Greater injury from refusing the injunction

Simpson ruled that the education and outreach performed by the Commonwealth and through the Corbett administration is much harder to stop now that it has started, because the Department of State is already in the process of issuing their IDs, mailers have been sent informing voters of the law and other informational advertisements have been set up via billboards, automated calls and TV commercials.

Success on the merits

While the plaintiffs made a good argument, the judge said, he was not convinced that they would prevail on the merits of the case.

Simpson also ruled that, on its face, the law is applied equally to every voter in the Commonwealth and not targeted at a specific group so as to disenfranchise them. As an election regulation, and not an amendment to Pennsylvania’s Constitution trying to change voters’ necessary qualifications specifically, he said it was not unconstitutional to merely ask a voter to provide identification and within the purview of a state to regulate elections.

Rep. Mike Turzai

Simpson said he considered potential partisan motivation to law in general, and took note of the “the disturbing, tendentious statements made by House Majority Leader Michael Turzai to a Republican party gathering in particular.” He said that despite the evidence of these statements and the possibility that others share his view, the evidence presented still does not invalidate the other interests involved in preserving the law – despite Turzai’s comments.

And while he called Turzai’s views “boastful,” he declined to speculate that other members of the General Assembly share the same views

He also said that if a “nondiscriminatory law is supported by valid neutral justifications” for it, then those views should not be thrown aside simply because partisan interests may have been “one motivation for the votes of individual legislators.”

Appeal

The ACLU is expected to appeal the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court, which currently sits at a 3-3 split between the two major parties, with Republican Justice Jane Orie Melvin suspended from participation while facing charges that she improperly used court staff for campaign purposes.

The Court will not be able to fill a seventh slot in time to sway the deadlocked bench, so neither party can rely on a decision there – although court watchers doubt they will vote strictly along party lines. As reported by Capitolwire’s Peter DeCoursey last week, Simpson “will not only have the first word on this, but likely the last.”

Read Judge Simpson’s full opinion here:

Judge Simpson Ruling

18 thoughts on “Judge Simpson Rules, Voter ID Law Stands (Updated)

  1. If this law wasn’t put through to affect the Presidential election by making it harder for urban voters, why the rush to enact it before allowing proper time for everyone to get these voter ID’s, anyone that doesn’t believe it was done for the exact reason Turzai said “to win PA for Romney” than you are just partisan or intellectually dishonest. They admitted it for god sake.

  2. I have never encountered much difficulty at PennDOT license centers. I have visited locations in Greene, Washington, Fayette, and Montgomery counties without any difficulty. When I had address changes processed it took a few days to receive the documents from Harrisburg.

  3. Good to realize there is a judge who does not bend to the will of radical anti-American groups such as the ACLU. Perhaps Judge Robert Simpson could give SC Justice John Roberts some pointers.

  4. Guess what, I’m a senior, I’ve had my name changed, other than my birth certificate, and guess what, I Have received a valid ID. Please have your victims contact their local political office, they will schlep them to get an ID. Oh the tears shed here, boo hoo.

  5. The state is incapable of issuing the ID’s through the already clogged DMV system. And, yes, there are many people, especially senior women, who would have difficulty meeting the restrictive ID requirements, despite ample other forms of ID that the state is disallowing.

  6. Well the Democrats missed the boat here. They should have proposed an ID law that would have taken effect in 2013. Instead they seem to think their voters are not capable of getting IDs ever.

  7. The alarmism of the left on this continues to be laughable. Especially when you consider the various ID laws in other states, especially our neighbor Ohio, where in 2006, the Democrats still miraculously won major victories despite the law.

  8. Jack and Ryan-

    The state has NOT made it easier to get ID. The voting-only ID is a sham, because they don’t have the time or resources to implement it. There are only 5 DMV locations in all of Philadelphia, and there are no plans (real or imagined) to increase staff, locations, training or hours.

    The “information” campaign is purposely designed to be confusing. misleading and ineffective, as illustrated by sample wording from the state debunked in court testimony.

    The state has prohibited the local counties from issuing “voting-only-ID”, even though for years they have issued such ID in the form of voter registration cards.

    The problem with this law is that they are requiring a form of ID that 5-10% of the voters don’t have, and is difficult for tens of thousands of people to get. It’s much hard to get a drivers license under the new rules since 9/11, especially for married women whose name no longer matches their birth certificates.

  9. Good point, Ryan. But nothing satisfies the likes of David. During the hearing, the challengers described the law as draconian but criticized as discriminatory any effort by the state to make it easier to get a photo ID. So, the liberal position is damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t-do-exactly-what-we-want.

  10. Fielding Mellish: I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.

  11. David… quit whining. The judge, originally a Casey appointee I might add, relied on the reasoning of the liberal hero retired Justice Stevens denying the injunction. This ruling has Democratic fingerprints all over it.

  12. What a piss-poor decision:

    1) Immediate and irreparable harm
    That state has shown NO real effort to resolve problems by increasing resources at DMV, or even having the new voting-only ID system in place. So, the new ID system is a red-herring.

    2) Greater injury from refusing the injunction
    The cost half-hearted and half-assed efforts of the state so are FAR LESS injurious than tens of thousands of voters being disenfranchised.

    3) Success on the merits
    The law is not “evenly applied” as some people already have this ID and others do not, and cannot obtain it. Women, whose married names differ from their birth certificate, are clearly not evenly affected.

    Also: ““nondiscriminatory law is supported by valid neutral justifications” But there were no “justifications” for it, because the state stipulated that it expected no significant cases of voter fraud without the law.

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