Pennsylvania judge upholds voter ID law
August 15th, 2012
11:25 AM ET
10 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. Sandy

    A conservative judge upholds voter suppression. What a surprise. Not!

    August 15, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Bill, NY

    I say it should be renamed the Runaway Slave Voting Act.

    August 15, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes

    June 25, 2012, Pennsylvania state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House’s end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically by checking it off his party's laundry list:

    "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

    Absolutely disgusting! Judge Simpson should be impeached on the grounds that not only are voter ID laws unnecessary (with a national fraud rate of 0.004%, it's practically non-existent), but are clearly for one purpose: To disenfranchise voters.

    August 15, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. Sniffit

    There can be no "rational relation" to a "compelling public interest" when the non-existence of the purported "compelling public interest" renders the enactment of the legislation irrational.

    There is no evidence whatsoever of in-person voter fraud. None...and PA even stipulated to that.

    August 15, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. Sniffit

    Enjoy the November riots.

    August 15, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. sonny chapman

    Repubs. love Democracy; as long as only the "Good People" can vote.

    August 15, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. truth hurts

    Good news... Legal citizens votes will be protected in Pennsylvania and they will not be disenfranchised. 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.

    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.

    August 15, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. California Gary

    Any law that would serve to prevent someone who has the right to vote under the voting rights act, will get overturned on appeal. In a democracy, the goal is to get maximum voting participation.......not to restrict who can vote and who can't by adding on additional requirements not called for in the voting rights act.

    August 15, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Beau

    Showing an I.D. to vote is not controversial. NOT SHOWING ONE IS!!!!!!

    August 15, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  10. Fair is Fair

    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.

    August 15, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. labman57

    Republicans are not even attempting to hide their contempt for the democratic process. In true Machiavellian fashion, they have displayed a willingness to take an ideological dump on the U.S. Constitution in order to further their political agenda.

    Team Romney pretty much wrote off the African American vote with his insulting, condescending speech during and interviews after his NAACP convention visit. Support from the Hispanic community was also a lost cause, in part due to the GOP's stance on the Dream Act and their recent distraction with trying to make English the "official" language of the U.S.

    Since Republicans cannot count on the votes from these two demographic sectors of the electorate, they have opted for a different approach - reduce the number of these citizens who are able to participate in the election process.

    With respect to the voter ID legislation/registered voter purges being pushed forth by Republican-controlled state legislatures under the guise of reducing nonexistent "voter fraud", GOP legislators should simply cut to the chase and proclaim that the only Americans who have a legitimate right to vote are those who are registered members of the Republican Party.

    August 15, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |

    Time for the Justice Department to intervene.

    August 15, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. rs

    Truth- but no laws have been broken in pennsylvania. Too bad the folks behind this law already revealed that the purpose of it was to get Mr. Romney elected. Can you say "fraud"?

    Just more GOP anti-Americanism at work!

    August 15, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. maltytasker

    Republicans are always talking about minimizing government involvement and minimizing laws if laws are not needed, yet they create laws to reduce voter fraud where there is no voter fraud. Seems pretty clear what their intention is. Totally un-American.

    August 15, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. B.

    Looks like the Republicans are on their deceitful and cynical agenda to impede the voting rights of likely Democratic voting rights.

    The Republicans are the most underhanded and hypocritical people that have yet shown-up in an Election cycle.
    Along with crushing Women’s rights, and destroying Democracy in Michigan towns by taking -over and eliminating city governments operating like like Mafia goons.

    I only hope that all of these reprehensible acts will face the scrutiny of the American people this fall on the stage of the Debates!

    August 15, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |

    Fair said.....You're damn right you need an ID to vote.
    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!

    August 15, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. Four and The Door

    I am surprised you do not have to show a photo ID everywhere to vote. Seriously, this is not asking too much. With all of the fraud that happens anymore, a photo ID is reasonable.

    August 15, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. Jon

    I dont get the Democrats arguement ... When I go to cash a check, I get asked for ID ... are the Democrats saying that making sure fraud doen't happen in the voter booth is not as important as making sure that fraud doesn't happen when cashing a check?

    Boy I disagree with them if that is what they are saying. Protect the ballot box. Keep our elections free from fraud.

    August 15, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. Publius Novus

    I agree that you should need an i.d. to vote–when you register to vote. You shouldn't be re-examined when you vote. What is the point of registering if you have already registered?

    August 15, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Sniffit

    "Democrats ALWAYS take the side of the law breakers "

    What law breakers? There's no evidence that in-person voter fraud exists. THERE ARE NO LAW BREAKERS in this instance. Engaging in rampant delusions and let's-pretend daydream doesn't make these laws necessary. When 1M or so voters in Philidelphia, targetted by these laws because of the demographics, don't have the required form of ID and get told they can't vote, you can be sure that the only result will be a massive legal mess that ends up in the SCOTUS and, eventually, results in widespread civil unrest. Perhaps that's what you'd like more than anything, eh? You'll no doubt try to blame it on Obama.

    August 15, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. Reggiedw

    Why is Obama and his administration including the DOJ trying to stop voter ID. America is suppose to be the leader in applying democracy in their lifestyle and yet the democrats are opposing a valid part of legal voting. Is it that they are afraid that if this type of law comes into effect, it will cut into their votes because alot of illegals are voting when they are not allowed to do so. There are so many countries that require voter ID (even in third world countries) and this great country of ours is still backward in requesting voter ID. I think the reason it is being objected to is because the democrats will suffer with their voting numbers and they know that they will lose the presidential election in November.

    August 15, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Jon

    Now if this voter ID program was sprung on people 24 hours before the election, the Democrats have a point. If they are so concerned that people can not get a valid voter ID ... why doesn't Obama spend some of the millions of dollars that he is raising to help those people get the voter IDs that they need.

    August 15, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. Concerned Citizen

    No ID = No Vote.

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

    Liberal, defined as a mental deficient.

    August 15, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Anonymous

    voter suppression.....when Eric Holder spoke in front of the NAACP a picture ID was required to get in. But to vote you need nothing.

    August 15, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  25. Workers Unite !

    This is Pa. Pitts and Phili are the home of voter fraud. The Id is just a start. The question now is how to stop all the dead and those that moved away but still appear on the rolls from voting.

    August 15, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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