For all intents and purposes, Pa.’s new requirement for voter ID is on hold for 2012. A Pa. judge issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday, ruling that no voter can be turned away for a lack of photo identification.
“I will enjoin enforcement of those provisions of Act 18 which amend the provisional ballot procedures of the Election Code and cause disenfranchisement based on failure to present photo ID for in-person voting,” wrote Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.
Essentially, Simpson extended the “trial run” period of the law, initially intended for the 2012 primary election, all the way through the general.
Other elements of the law, including public education efforts about the rule as well as instruction that poll workers request voter ID, will continue.
Voters without ID will not need to cast a provisional ballot.
Simpson commended the state on its recent efforts to streamline the process for obtaining ID, but said that the changes occurred too close to the election to avoid the risk of disenfranchising voters.
However, he wrote, “I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time. For this reason, I accept Petitioners’ argument 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.”
It’s the latest in an ongoing saga.
In his initial ruling in August, Simpson upheld the law on the grounds that there was no definitive evidence that disenfranchisement would occur. However, on appeal, the Pa. Supreme Court kicked the ruling back down to Commonwealth Court with the instruction to look specifically at whether legitimate voters could be turned away.
It’s unclear whether the Pa. Supreme Court would hear an appeal before the election. In any case, the 3-3 split between the Court’s Democrats and Republicans means that this injunction is likely to stand through November 6. A tie decision on the high Court, by default, results in a ruling being upheld.
The law is very likely to be in place for future elections.
“These existing structural improvements, together with the proposed enhanced access to the DOS ID and additional time, will place the Commonwealth in a better position going forward,” Simpson wrote of the state’s position in further legal proceedings on the matter.