Pennsylvania Court Upholds Voter ID Law

Aug 15, 2012 12:04pm
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                                                                                 (Image Credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

A Pennsylvania judge upheld the state’s strict voter ID law today, rejecting civil rights group’s claims that the law will disenfranchise thousands of voters.

The ruling is a victory for Gov. Tom Corbett, who signed the voter ID law in March, and state Republicans, who pushed the law through the GOP-controlled legislature. Not one state Democrat voted for the law.

Corbett advocated for the law because he said it “protects a sacred principle, one shared by every citizen of this nation.”

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, said in a statement after the ruling that the court’s decision “will reinforce the principle of one person, one vote.”

“I am pleased Judge Simpson affirmed the constitutionality of the voter ID law,” Aichele said. “By giving us a reliable way to verify the identity of each voter, the voter ID law will enhance confidence in our elections.”

The law requires Pennsylvania voters to present a valid photo ID  at the polls before voting in November’s election. Valid forms of photo identification include driver’s licenses, military IDs, college IDs, local or county government employee IDs and photo IDs from state care facilities. Most Pennsylvania state college IDs will not be accepted because they do not have expiration dates.

The state’s Department of Transportation is required to provide free IDs for any prospective voters who do not have the requisite form of identification. As many as 1.3 million Pennsylvania voters lack the required form of ID, according to testimony from Matt Barreto, a Seattle political scientist from the University of Washington who was called to the stand by lawyers from The Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group challenging the law.

Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, told ABC News that it was “ludicrous to think that any significant percentage” of the more than 1 million Pennsylvanians who do not have a valid photo ID will be able to get one before November’s election.

“I think the intent was for it to affect the elections,” Hair said. “Elections in Pennsylvania are ordinarily decided by margins that are less than 1 million voters. That’s how many voters we are talking about being barred from voting this fall.”

Get more pure politics at ABCNews.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com.

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Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made waves in June when he said at the Republican State Committee meeting that the voter ID law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

“We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” Turzai said in a speech to committee members, Politics PA reported.

Turzai then listed a handful of accomplishments such as “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

The Obama campaign responded to the court’s ruling by vowing to redouble their efforts to inform voters about the ID needed to vote and how to obtain one.

“Now more than ever it is important that the Commonwealth follow through on its plan to make available free IDs to any voter who may need them,”  Jennifer Austin, spokeswoman for Obama for America Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Regardless of party affiliation, we support ensuring any voter eligible to cast a ballot has the right to do so.” 

The Advancement Project was one of a handful of activist organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that asked the court to issue an injunction preventing the voter ID law from taking effect.

Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne-Dianis said the civil rights groups will take “immediate steps” to appeal the commonwealth court’s decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law erects an unequal barrier to voting for hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, disproportionately blocking veterans, seniors and people of color from the polls,” Browne-Dianis said in a statement.

Pennsylvania is one of eleven states that passed strict voter ID laws in 2011 and 2012. Three of those laws, in Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin, were struck down by the courts.

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