PA voter ID law survives first court battle
Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law survived its first legal challenge yesterday after a judge ruled that voters must show a valid photo ID to cast a ballot in November’s election.
Read more: Pennsylvania’s voter ID law under scrutiny
Judge Robert Simpson declined to stop Pennsylvania’s voter ID law from taking effect this fall, stating that the American Civil Liberties Union failed to prove that voter disenfranchisement was “immediate or inevitable” if House Bill 934 is implemented.
“The photo ID requirement…is a reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life,” wrote Judge Robert Simpson in Applewhite v. Pennsylvania. “The Commonwealth’s asserted interest in protecting public confidence in elections is a relevant and legitimate state interest sufficiently weighty to justify the burden.”
Pointing out that no in-person voter fraud has ever been documented or prosecuted in Pennsylvania, the ACLU announced that it will appeal Simpson’s decision to the state Supreme Court. The organization also presented evidence during the trial showing that about 1 million registered voters lack the necessary photo ID to cast a ballot in November.
“Too many people have fought for the right to vote to have it taken away like this. All I want is to be able to vote this November like I always have. This law is just ridiculous,” said Viviette Applewhite, the 93-year-old lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. Applewhite, an African-American woman who voted in every election since 1960, had her purse stolen years ago. Since then, she has been unable to obtain a Pennsylvania photo ID because she couldn’t retrieve a copy of her birth certificate from the state’s Division of Vital Records despite several attempts and paying the required fees.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Penn.) praised the court’s decision.
“Now that the court has upheld the constitutionality of the law, we can continue to focus our attention on ensuring that every Pennsylvania citizen who wants to vote has the identification necessary to make sure their vote counts,” he said.
The state will begin mailing information packets to poll workers later this month and launch a TV, web, phone, and billboard advertising campaign to educate prospective voters about the new photo ID requirements after Labor Day.
- American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania: Judge Rejects Challenge to PA’s Voter ID Law
- American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania: Applewhite v. Pennsylvania memorandum opinion by Judge Robert Simpson – Aug. 15, 2012 (PDF)
- Pennsylvania Office of the Governor: Governor Corbett, Secretary of Commonwealth Respond to Voter ID Ruling (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: Pennsylvania’s voter ID law under scrutiny