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. once upon a horse

    you notice that the GOP did not do this until AFTER the 2010 elections since they basically knew they had all that wrapped up and they NEVER ask for voter ID in either of the elections that Bush won. I wonder why?

    August 15, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    ""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."

    1. He said he resides in PA, where he attends school.

    2. The issue is not residency, it is domicile, which is different and a matter of the person's intent. It has long been held that students residing in a different state can choose to consider themselves domiciled there and therefore vote in that state's elections.

    3. And before you go there, no, there's no evidence of widespread student voter fraud from them voting in their school state AND their home state in order to cast 2 votes.

    Read more, absorb and assimilate to talking points and ideology less.

    August 15, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "these are common sense laws"

    What, pray tell, is "common sense" about enacting a law designed to fix a problem that demonstrably does not exist?

    August 15, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. smitvict

    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.

    ------------
    But Obama has no problem FORCING me to buy "healthcare". LOL

    August 15, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. ghostriter

    Fair, college students may not be able to travel to their home state to vote. They can to vote on their campus. Though we could handle that with early voting by mail......if republicans weren't looking to restrict that as well.

    August 15, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  6. Jackson

    There are problems on both sides of this.

    On the one hand, yes, everyone obviously needs to be able to prove they are who they say they are before being allowed to vote. That is as it should be.

    On the other hand, why do Republicans only seem to be bringing these laws up in battleground states, and no other states? That is seriously disingenuous.

    August 15, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Joe from Vegas

    I think the point that is being missed here is that the law is not requiring a photo ID, but a state issued photo ID. So if I have a passport, live in Pennslyvania, but do not have a state issued photo ID I can not vote. If I have a passport I can buy alcohol, buy smokes, buy a house, pay taxes, etc. But in Pennslyvania I would not be able to vote. If you think that is fair then we live in a country that is far different than what our founding fathers thought it should be.

    August 15, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. That's illegal...

    Unless they plan on starting to pass out state IDs for free, I would think this would be illegal since you are required to pay for a state id, therefore you are paying a fee to vote!

    August 15, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Linda

    The Judge Is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!! If you cannot show your ID, then you have no business voting at all !

    August 15, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. MaryM

    So when the seniors that have voted all their life and dont know about the law , show up to vote without ID, you are going to turn them away, right?

    August 15, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Me IN HOUSTON

    If the photo ID required by the State of PA is not provided by the State of PA absolutely positively 100% free of charge, then it amounts to nothing more than a poll tax.

    August 15, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. rrd

    That's illegal...

    Unless they plan on starting to pass out state IDs for free, I would think this would be illegal since you are required to pay for a state id, therefore you are paying a fee to vote!
    -----------------------------
    Almost sound like the mandate in Obamacare

    August 15, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. Mike From PA

    I don't understand how this is even a debatable issue. It's 2012, get an ID to prove who you are, and then you can vote. Chances are, everyone who wants to vote already has an ID. There is no conspiracy or fraud about it. It's a simple and necessary way to prove your identity. You need one to drive a car, own property, rent property, buy alcohol, use credit card purchases... etc. Seriously, how can you actually argue that is unconstitutional?

    August 15, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. 83 Days until Obama gets RE-ELECTED !

    @smitvict – But Obama has no problem FORCING me to buy "healthcare". LOL
    ---------------------------
    So you're saying that Obama is forcing you to buy "healthcare" in order to vote ???

    August 15, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Maggie

    I have no problem with the Voter ID Laws... As long as the States Issue "free" IDs to all its legal residents. Anything other than that is a poll tax.

    August 15, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Ronda in Houston,TX

    No amount of voter suppression will stop people from going to the polls to vote. As for people/students who's residence is in another state, make your vote count in that state. Go to your State's website or check with your Secretary of State on how to vote absentee in that State. There is no need to panic.

    August 15, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    For a moment there I thought those where the NJ governor bully's pants then I see this story is from PA.
    So absentee ballots are off the table now also? If you need ID, instead of just your address, like in my MD precint, this should keep all those troops stationed overseas shoo vote mostly rethug not being able to vote.
    Love and respect the troops, have member od the military in the family, but unless they can cote by Skype . . . . .

    August 15, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. Sandra

    The majority of documented fraud has come from absentee ballots. The GOP did not want to put any restrictions on absentee ballots since many of their supporters vote that way. So what other assumption can you make than they want to restrict voting of the poor and elderly and students. One of the most stupid things I have heard is that you can use a gun license to provide ID but not a student ID. Don't disenfranchise the gun nuts!

    And for you folks talking about Post Office boxes, a lot of the poor and elderly don't have post office boxes, they have been getting their mail through their rural carriers all their lives, I can tell you folks don't get out of your comfort zones much! Same thing for the excuse that you have to have ID to get a passport. Do you seriously think all of these folks have ever even thought about having a passport? Many of them were born at home and may not even have a birth certificate.
    Most of your problem is that you don't see anything outside of your narrow world.

    August 15, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. dee

    This is a "Danger" to Black Americans,Latinos,working class poor,young people, "Everybody"!!!!! Voter Suppression,Discrimination at its "Worst"!!!! Gop has "Rigged" the election! Shame on the Penn State! What an "Outrage"

    August 15, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  20. De - Facto Poll Tax

    Mike Turzai should be investigated, arrested, and prosecuted by the Obama admin for attempted voter fraud.

    "You need an ID to buy alcohol.
    You need an ID to buy smokes.
    You need an ID to open a bank account.
    You need an ID to rent an apartment or buy a house.

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

    None of those things listed above are fundamental rights of American citizens. In order for this ID to be legal, it has to be absolutely free for all eligible voters. Free meaning no charge, places to obtain the ID being in walking distance (not have to pay for transit to the places to obtain ID), mandatory requirements from employers to give employees free time off in order to obtain the IDs, accommodations for the disabled to get to the places to obtain the id.

    Under the current setup, if the places to obtain the ID are only open during working hours, are located across town (meaning that people will need cars or pay for transit) and employers wont let workers take time off work to obtain the ids, then the law is voter suppression. It's as simple as that

    August 15, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. Chris

    In 2000 at serval polling in mainly dems over 1200 people voted for gore later it was found out these people who voted were dead moved to another state and felonies. First 2 years of obama the house and senate were dems and nothing got done. But obama blamed bush. Everytime something doesnt go right he blames others instead of taking blame himself also. He sounds like my 18 year old who blames everyone except herself. U dems need to wakeup before u no longer have any rights to anything because if not ure govt will tell u how to do everything. If ure really smart u will look up the facts before u vote obama. But yall want because hes yalls god and what he says goes.

    August 15, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. 83 Days until Obama gets RE-ELECTED !

    @Mike From PA – It's 2012, get an ID to prove who you are, and then you can vote. Chances are, everyone who wants to vote already has an ID. There is no conspiracy or fraud about it. It's a simple and necessary way to prove your identity. You need one to drive a car, own property, rent property, buy alcohol, use credit card purchases... etc. Seriously, how can you actually argue that is unconstitutional?
    ----------------------------–
    It's simple... and obvious that you are missing the poin. One is already required to provide some form of picture ID to vote. The law becomes "unconstitutional" when one if forced to PAY for a State ID in order to vote in that state. That is a poll tax which is illegal and unconstitutional.

    August 15, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. Sniffit

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

    THIS.

    August 15, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. A True Conservative

    I wonder why the liberals are so worked up over this law....could it be that they know how many dead pets vote in elections? This law will help to stop voter fraud – how can any American citizen be against limiting voting to only people who have a legal right to vote?

    August 15, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  25. 83 Days until Obama gets RE-ELECTED !

    @Mike From PA – It's 2012, get an ID to prove who you are, and then you can vote. Chances are, everyone who wants to vote already has an ID. There is no conspiracy or fraud about it. It's a simple and necessary way to prove your identity. Seriously, how can you actually argue that is unconstitutional?
    ----------------------------–
    It's simple... and obvious that you are missing the poin. One is already required to provide some form of picture ID to vote. The law becomes "unconstitutional" when one if required to have and to PAY for a State ID in order to vote in that state. That is a poll tax which is illegal and unconstitutional.

    August 15, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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