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HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania voters will not have to show photo identification at the polls until the Commonwealth Court makes a final decision in the lawsuit challenging the controversial law.
Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley issued an order on August 16th extending the preliminary injunction of the voter ID law until the trial court makes a decision on a permanent injunction. That decision, which is separate from today's ruling, is not expected until later this year.
"We are very pleased that hundreds of thousands of eligible voters will be able to cast ballots in upcoming elections regardless of whether or not they have required identification," said Jennifer Clarke of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, a member of the plaintiff's legal team, which also includes the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project and Arnold & Porter LLP.
Judge McGinley's order also changed the "soft rollout" process for implementation of the law, removing the requirement that poll workers tell voters they must be prepared to show proper identification at future elections. Poll workers can still ask voters to produce identification, though voters are not required to do so; this requirement had been included in the preliminary injunctions issued by Judge Simpson in 2012 and 2013.
"Evidence presented during the three week hearing demonstrated that the "soft rollout" confused voters and poll workers alike. It even resulted in people being turned away on Election Day," said Michael A. Rubin of Arnold & Porter LLP. "This decision clarifies for voters that they can cast ballots without identification at upcoming elections and means that the law will not be used to further confuse and suppress voters."
The order comes after more than two weeks of trial this past July. "Today's ruling will help voters like Marian Baker, who testified during the trial that she decided not to vote in the May 2013 primaries because she was told during the November 2012 elections that she would need identification. That turned out to be wrong, and Marian's voice was unnecessarily lost," said Reggie Shuford, Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
Post-trial briefs on the issue of a permanent injunction of the voter ID law are due August 30, 2013. Judge McGinley is expected to rule on that request later this year, though there is no specific deadline in place.
"We are pleased with the court's decision, but this is not the end of the fight," said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. "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."