Pa. voter ID law on hold for November election

Posted: August 18, 2013

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania voters will not be required to produce identification to cast ballots in November.

A Commonwealth Court judge has barred enforcement of the state's 2012 voter ID law until he makes a final determination in the case challenging the legislation.

In his ruling Friday, Judge Bernard McGinley said while poll workers asking for ID was not itself disenfranchisement, a hardship was created for voters by the state's misleading or nonexistent information on the new law's requirements.

"The court cannot (in good conscience) ignore the fact that the information conveys to electors, if relayed at all, in the last two regularly scheduled elections, was inaccurate," he wrote.

"We are pleased with the court's decision, but this is not the end of the fight," said Penda D. Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil-rights group representing the plaintiffs. "Given the numerous, deep-seated problems with the law that were exposed during the trial, we know it stands to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters who lack photo ID. We will continue working to ensure that this law is permanently enjoined, and that all voters have a voice in our democracy."

Attorneys representing the state agreed to postpone the law's enforcement at the trial's conclusion earlier this month until a final decision was made.

"During this summer's trial regarding Pennsylvania's Voter ID law, we made it clear to the court that the Commonwealth did not object to delaying the full implementation of photo ID requirements until after the November municipal election," Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, Gov. Corbett's spokesman, said in a statement "Judge McGinley's Order is consistent with our position.

" . . . we believe it was reasonable for the court to continue a preliminary injunction until after the election in order to allow ample time to consider the merits of this case."

But the ruling modifies the state's "soft rollout" of the law, which had required poll workers to ask for an ID, but they may not tell voters they must have an ID for a subsequent election.

"That created confusion with poll workers," said Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who was representing the plaintiffs, who include the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and the Homeless Advocacy Project. "This provides more clarity."

The modification to the soft rollout indicates McGinley was moved by a plaintiffs' witness, who told the court she did not vote in the May primary after being told last November she couldn't vote in the next election without ID, Walczak said.

The Pennsylvania voter ID law, like those in other states, was backed by Republicans, who said it would prevent fraud, and pilloried by Democrats, who called it an act of voter suppression.

November will mark the fourth election or primary since the passage of the controversial legislation that registered voters will not have to produce state-approved ID at the polls.

McGinley is expected to rule on the request for a permanent injunction later this year, though there is no specific deadline.

Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.

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