In a victory for Pennsylvania voters, a state judge today halted the enforcement of the state’s voter ID law, which threatened to disenfranchise thousands of elderly residents, students, the homeless and communities of color this November.
Judge Robert Simpson Jr. ruled that he was “not convinced” that the requirement to show photo ID at polling stations would not lead to voter disenfranchisement, as the state had argued.
One of several organizations challenging the law, the ACLU of Pennsylvania represented numerous Pennsylvania voters who had difficulty obtaining photo ID. Among them was Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old African-American woman who once marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and has voted in nearly every election for the last 60 years. She had tried unsuccessfully for years to obtain a state-issued photo ID after her purse was stolen.
Judge Simpson did not strike down the law, but instead delayed its implementation until after the November 6 election. Voters can still be asked for photo ID, but those without it will be allowed to vote without restriction. These voters will also receive information about the law and how to get approved ID.
Previously, under the law voters who lacked ID would have been given a provisional ballot and would then have six days in which to produce an acceptable ID in order for their vote to be counted. Simpson maintained the risk of disenfranchisement came when a voter could not produce an acceptable ID in time.
“[Lawmakers] explained that during the first elections after its passage, an otherwise qualified elector who does not provide proof of identification may cast a ballot that shall be counted without the necessity of casting a provisional ballot,” Simpson wrote in his 18-page decision.
Vic Walczak, ACLU of Pennsylvania legal director and one of the lawyers who handled the two trials, hailed the decision.
"Pennsylvanians voted without problems and without any hint of impersonation voter fraud before the ID law, so it’s a great day for democracy that all eligible electors, including people who may not have the right kind of ID, will again be able to exercise this most precious of rights. "
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