by Laura Saccente, Director of Governmental Relations
A trial to determine the future of PA’s Voter ID law is set to begin on Monday, July 15. The law, passed in March of 2012, requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who presided over the original case, has now handed it over to a colleague, Judge Bernard McGinley. Simpson initially upheld the law, but challengers appealed his decision to the state Supreme Court. In October he granted a preliminary injunction ordering state officials to refrain from enforcing the law in last November’s general election and May’s primary.
The review of Pennsylvania’s law comes on the heels of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 provided a formula for the U.S. government to decide which states — based on their history of discrimination — needed federal review before changing their voting laws. This provision mostly affected Southern states, and states such as Mississippi and Texas rushed to implement their voter ID laws following the decision.
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court is expected to make a decision by August 9th to allow time for a likely appeal before the November election.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania contends that in the 16 months since Voter ID was passed, state officials have failed to implement the law in a way that guarantees all voters will be able to obtain identification. Initially the administration argued that less than 1 percent of registered voters in the Commonwealth lacked the type of photo identification required by the new law, but soon after the law was passed, the Department of State acknowledged that the figure was closer to 9 percent. Additional research conducted by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO last summer indicated that approximately 1.6 million registered voters in Pennsylvania would be disenfranchised because they did not have an approved state-issued ID.
How to Get Involved
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO has a petition for individuals to sign calling for lawmakers and judges to protect the voting rights of Pennsylvania citizens.
A public rally opposing Voter ID will be held in the Main Rotunda of the Harrisburg Capitol on Thursday, July 11 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.