Pennsylvania judge upholds voter ID law
August 15th, 2012
11:25 AM ET
2 years ago

Pennsylvania judge upholds voter ID law

(CNN) - A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday decided not to restrict a controversial voter ID law from going into place.

The law, which requires voters to present a state issued photo ID, has been met with fierce opposition by those who claim that the law discriminates against minorities.

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In the Keystone State, the issue has largely been divided along party lines. Republicans argue the new law helps to fight fraud, while Democrats make the case that the new law aids Republicans in the voting booth by limiting turnout by minorities in the crucial battleground state.

But Judge Robert Simpson, with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, on Wednesday issued an order expressing no constitutional reason to stop the law from taking effect, despite writing in his decision that he had "sympathy" for the witnesses.

"At the end of the day, however, I do not have the luxury of deciding this issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses or my esteem for the counsel. Rather, I must analyze the law, and apply it to the evidence of facial unconstitutionality brought forth in the courtroom, tested by our adversarial system," Simpson wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the Advancement Project, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter will be appealing to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, according to a statement from the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

"Given clear evidence that impersonation fraud is not a problem, we had hoped that the court would show greater concern for the hundreds of thousands of voters who will be disenfranchised by this law," Witold 'Vic' Walczak, legal director for the state's ACLU, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania GOP chairman praised the judge's decision.

"I applaud the Commonwealth Court for displaying courage and conviction in this ruling. With sensational headlines and half-truths about this legislation being touted by partisan critics, we are fortunate that the Commonwealth Court realized that the sanctity of our elections was at stake – and took appropriate action to protect a cherished right," Rob Gleason said in a statement.

Pennsylvania represents a crucial battleground state this fall in the presidential election. While a Republican candidate hasn't won the state since 1988, the state made big GOP gains in recent years and has a Republican governor and one U.S. senator.

A recent poll released August 1 suggests President Barack Obama leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania by a margin of 53% to 42%, though Romney has in the past predicted he'll win the state in November.

In late July, the Justice Department began a formal investigation into whether the state's requirement violates civil rights laws, saying the state had 30 days to provide the requested documents.

Pennsylvania is the first state outside of the areas covered by Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act designed to protect minorities in states with historic racial discrimination in voting, to be investigated. To date the Justice Department has already filed suit against two states: South Carolina and Texas. Officials are awaiting a ruling by a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., on a Texas case argued in early July. Judges have scheduled a hearing on the South Carolina case later this summer.

The Civil Rights Division has taken an aggressive approach to challenging voter photo-ID laws, which many Democratic and minority groups claim is an effort by Republican-controlled state governments to suppress voter turnout. Republicans have charged the challenges reflect purely partisan politics designed to enhance minority turnout at the polls.

- CNN's Ashley Killough, Terry Frieden, Karan Olson, Sarah Hoye, Adam Levy, and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Pennsylvania
soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. 83 Days until Obama gets RE-ELECTED !

    @truth hurts – It is just amazing that the Democrats ALWAYS take the side of the law breakers and NEVER on the side of the average legal US citizen.
    -----------------------------
    Don't suppose it matters that NO laws are being broken bro? Voter fraud is an urban legend and simply does not happen – ranks up there with intelligent thought by the right.
    The SOLE purpose of VoterId laws is to disenfranchise Dem voters. The American people KNOW that doing this is the only way the Grand Obstructionist Party stands a chance of winning.. remove Dem voters.

    August 15, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. jason

    yeah, but, doesn't getting an ID cost money? I thought it was unconstitutional to force people to buy something in order to vote.

    August 15, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Me IN HOUSTON

    I KNEW IT! When the defendants came out and said they had now evidence of in person voter fraud and made no attempt to conceal that fact, I knew that the judge hearing the case was more than likely appointed by a republican and was gong to judge in their favor regardless of how their is no voter fraud AND regardless of how voter id laws disproportionately disenfranchise the poor, the elderly and young.

    August 15, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. David

    This judge needs to be impeached as soon as possible. What he has done is pure discrimination, racism at the hightest form. They need to repeal that quickly.

    August 15, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair

    "So if I'm from Virginia and have a state issued Virginia ID, but I go to school in Pennsylvania, why should I be required to get a Pennsylvania ID? Is my student ID from my school invalid? This is voter surpression and you of all people know that. Come on!"
    ------
    If you reside in Virginia, you should be voting in Virgina OR absentee voting for Virgina. You're arguement is ridiculous.

    August 15, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. rrd

    voter suppression......when Eric Holder spoke at the NAACP convention a picture ID was required too get in. But nothing should be required too vote?

    August 15, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. nrc

    I need three forms of id to get a PO Box, it makes sense to need one to vote. Plus, it allows us to keep people above board in our society. You need licenses for every citizen if we are to truly be safe as a community.

    August 15, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Concerned Citizen

    No ID = No Vote.

    Why should someone here illegally be allowed to vote for the leader of OUR NATION?

    August 15, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes

    @Truth hurts: " This sends a clear message that these are common sense laws that are required in this day and age where we have tens of millions of illegals roaming this country."

    Illegal aliens CAN'T VOTE!!! The incidence of voter fraud in this country is 0.004%.

    How you manage to get dressed in the morning is beyond me ....

    August 15, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    "You're damn right you need an ID to vote."

    Shaking off the "Land of the Free" mantra, Fair? Voter suppression in a free society is never a good ideal. Just my opinion, mind you.

    August 15, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. The REAL TRUTH...

    @Concerned Citizen – Why should someone here illegally be allowed to vote for the leader of OUR NATION?
    Liberal, defined as a mental deficient.
    ------------------
    Speaking of mental deficiency, illegal aliens voting is not the VoterID law issue. Never has been, because they don't vote!! Perhaps you should be more concerned about foreign investments in the right-leaning super PAC's.. a few illegals voting is far less scary than having our leaders bought and paid for with foreign funds...!!!

    August 15, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. Trickle down doesn't work

    Time to get angry people. They're trying to steal the election for the Koch boys, Adelson, etc. They're firing shots across the bow of the middle class and the poor. Do we just sit back and accept it?

    August 15, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  13. Fair is Fair

    "yeah, but, doesn't getting an ID cost money? I thought it was unconstitutional to force people to buy something in order to vote."
    ----–
    It is. It could be considered a poll tax. Which is why the state MUST issue an ID suitable for voting FREE OF CHARGE.

    August 15, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. Workers Unite !

    The fun time at the polls is when Dem officials show up at the polls with metntally deficient folks in tow and instruct them how to vote. Voter fraud ? what , no we are just helping them vote for who they would vote for if they were mentally capable. See ?

    August 15, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  15. IF YOU SIGNED GROVER'S PLEDGE, YOU ARE A TRAITOR TO THE U.S.

    How many cases of voter ID fraud have been committed in the last 12 years? 10!!! But republicans are allowed to steal an election in 2000 and get away with it. GTFOH!

    August 15, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. David

    Noone asks me for ID when I get smokes
    Noone asks me for ID when I buy alcholhol
    Neither of which is a constitutionally declared right
    As to Truth Hurts lament about all the illegals roaming the country: The evidence is clear that they are not voting. In fact a recent study showed that no more than 1 in 15 million voters misrepresented themselves at the polls.
    The state legislature from Pa was perfectly honest when he said this is a move to get Romney elected. It has nothing to do with voter fraud.
    I am sick of the intellual dishonesty.

    August 15, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "yeah, but, doesn't getting an ID cost money? I thought it was unconstitutional to force people to buy something in order to vote."

    They try to hide it by making the ID "free"...even though the underlying paperwork, travel, etc., required to obtain it costs money.

    August 15, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. Pa Voter

    You can't even buy beer in a Giant Eagle (Local pa super market chain) without a current valid photo id.

    August 15, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes

    @Fair is Fair:

    You need a license to drive a car.
    You need insurance to drive a car.

    You're damn right you need a license to own a gun.

    August 15, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. rrd

    Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes
    Illegal aliens CAN'T VOTE!!! The incidence of voter fraud in this country is 0.004%.

    --------------------------------–
    I'm curious how anyone can come up with a figure on voter fraud. There is no way to tract it since no ID is required.

    August 15, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. roro

    THERE IS NO VOTER FRAUD. This whole scheme has been concocted by the Republicans because they know they can't win fairly. So they resort to lies, misinformation, and voter suppression. The judge should be impeached immediately.

    August 15, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  22. The REAL TRUTH...

    @nrc – I need three forms of id to get a PO Box, it makes sense to need one to vote. Plus, it allows us to keep people above board in our society. You need licenses for every citizen if we are to truly be safe as a community.
    ---------------------------------–
    Where I live, I have always had to provide registration card and ID to vote. The Grand Obstructionist Party's VoterID legislation is a solution looking for a non-existent problem. There's only a 0.0004% incidence and most of it (from the research I did) seems EQUALLY perpetrated by BOTH parties..

    August 15, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  23. Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes

    @Fair is Fair:

    Fair is Fair

    You need an ID to buy alcohol.
    You need a to produce at least five years of tax returns to buy a house..

    You're damn right you need to produce 10 years of tax returns to be President of the United States.

    August 15, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. Lionel

    Poor people in the cities do not drive and most do not have passports. This is voter suppression at it's highest level and should be outlawed. How many voter frauds were there in Penn state? come on people, democracy means that everyone should get a chance to vote.

    August 15, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. Pa Voter

    "The SOLE purpose of VoterId laws is to disenfranchise Dem voters"

    August 15, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
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