Court rules to suspend voter ID law for November election
All registered Pennsylvania voters will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 6 election under a ruling issued Tuesday by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.
Simpson did not strike down the controversial voter ID law, but ruled that the November election could go forward in the same manner as the spring primary election this year. Poll workers can ask for photo ID, but the law will be suspended for the Nov. 6 election, meaning those who do not have a valid photo ID will be able to vote.
A trial on the merits of the law as a whole will not take place until after the election, the results of which will determine whether the law stands permanently, according to the memorandum opinion.
Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro said Tuesday that he was “encouraged by Judge Simpson’s ruling that those people who can’t get an ID can still vote in this election,” but the county will go forward with using the county senior care center to issue valid voter identification cards.
“We expect that Simpson’s ruling will be appealed,” Shapiro said. “Given that uncertainty, it is important that we move forward to ensure every Montgomery County registered voter who needs an ID can get one.”
Employees of the county nursing home will be going to various locations throughout the county to issue free IDs to those who need them from Oct. 3 to Nov. 6.
Simpson had initially ruled against issuing an injunction to block implementation of the law, but the state Supreme Court sent the matter back to him, basically stating he would have to issue an injunction if he determined that any voter would be disenfranchised under the law.
While noting continued efforts by the state to change the requirements for obtaining a valid photo ID, Simpson wrote that with the proposed changes occurring about five weeks before the election, “I question whether sufficient time now remains to attain the goal of liberal access.”
“I am still not convinced … that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election,” Simpson wrote. “Under these circumstances, I am obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.”
In his opinion, Simpson states he does not find the law itself disenfranchises voters, but that “the disenfranchisement expressly occurs during the provisional ballot part of the in- person voting process.”
The preliminary injunction is limited to the upcoming election. A conference regarding a challenge to the entire Act 18 will be held Dec. 13, after which a schedule will be issued for a trial on the application for a permanent injunction, according to the memorandum issued.
The Republican- backed voter ID law was passed in March and has been challenged by Democrats. Reaction to Simpson’s ruling, like the passage of the bill, fell along party lines.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican from Allegheny County, said in a statement that the judge’s decision “upholds Act 18, and voter identification, and that is good.”
“Voter identification is about ensuring the integrity of our elections and preserving the principle of the ‘one person, one vote’ doctrine,” Turzai said. “The fact is, the election integrity provisions that have passed the House have been to preserve the right of every citizen who is entitled to vote to be able to vote, and every citizen who votes should be sure that his or her vote has not been diluted by somebody else’s fraud.”
State Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-153, issued a statement following the ruling, saying she would continue to advocate for a full repeal of the law.
“I am relieved that the court has recognized what we have known all along: that this law would disenfranchise thousands of voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote in this election,” she said.
The ruling “simply delays implementation of this misguided law until the next election,” Dean added. “This is a bad law that seeks to suppress a fundamental right, and I am redoubling my efforts to repeal.”
For a complete list of locations through Montgomery County to obtain an identification card, visit NorthPennLife. com.