Next Voter ID Battle Set

Perhaps the biggest political battle of the 2012 election year wasn’t over a statewide office or seat in Congress; it was Voter ID.  Ultimately no Pennsylvania voter was required to show photo identification at the polls last November, but the legal battle is far from over.

A new scheduling order from Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson lays out some key dates for the next phase of this debate.   

Will the temporary, partial injunction be extended through this coming May’s primary election? We should find out in March. 

Will the plaintiffs be successful in their attempts to have the law permanently enjoined?  We should find out in July.

Reactions Abound to Voter ID Ruling

Stakeholders are weighing in now that a Commonwealth Court judge has rejected critics’ call for an injunction against Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law.  Here’s a sampling:


ACLU of Pennsylvania legal director Vic Walczak:  “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.”

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele: “I am pleased Judge Simpson affirmed the constitutionality of the Voter ID law.  This law will reinforce the principle of one person, one vote.  By giving us a reliable way to verify the identity of each voter, the voter ID law will enhance confidence in our elections.”

State House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny):  “Today’s ruling is a travesty not just for those Pennsylvanians whose right to vote will be stripped away by this law but for all Pennsylvanians and all American citizens.  A threat to one person’s right to vote is a threat to us all.  I sincerely hope the Supreme Court will right this terrible wrong and will overturn this decision in time for the November elections.  The commonwealth’s highest court should see what the rest of the nation so plainly does – that this law is a scam.”

Governor Tom Corbett: “Now that the court has upheld the constitutionality of the law, we can continue to focus our attention on ensuring that every Pennsylvania citizen who wants to vote has the identification necessary to make sure their vote counts.”


As Rep. Dermody alluded to in his statement, the case will surely be appealed to the state Supreme Court ahead of the November 6th General Election.  In the meantime, implementation and outreach efforts continue.  Interested voters can find a full list of acceptable forms of identification online.

Voter ID Arguments to be Heard in Commonwealth Court

Opponents of Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law are asking the Commonwealth Court to block enforcement before the November election.  “Article 1, section 5 of Pennsylvania’s constitution guarantees that elections shall be free and equal,” says Marian Schneider of the Advancement Project.

The petitioners contend that one million Pennsylvanians are eligible to vote but lack the photo ID required under Pennsylvania’s new law.  “If you’ve listed to the proponents of the law… you would have the impression that everyone either has photo ID or they can easily get it.  Their message is that photo ID is used for everything, what’s the big deal,” says attorney David Gersch.  “It is a big deal.”

The hearing before Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson starts Wednesday morning, and is expected to continue through most of next week.

Despite critics’ complaints, state officials are standing by the new law.  “Really for this size issue in Pennsylvania, I think the challenges we’re facing are relatively small,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele told reporters in Gettysburg last week.  She was responding to questions about the more than 750,000 registered voters that aren’t already in the PennDOT database.

Letters are going out to every one of them, reminding them of the new law and the complete list of acceptable IDs.  The Department of State has also announced the creation of a new card that can be issued to voters who need identification under the law, and who are unable to provide all the documents they would normally need to obtain a PennDOT ID.

But it’s not enough to assuage the hundreds of protesters who gathered on the state capitol steps Tuesday. Their rally cry: “Voter ID, Not for Me.”  Among the speakers was Sen. Daylin Leach, who says that even the Commonwealth’s lawyers agree there’s no evidence of in-person voter fraud.

“This bill was passed under false pretenses.  That’s why I’ve introduced a bill to repeal the Voter ID bill,” Leach announced to a round of applause at Tuesday’s rally.  Additional rallies are planned in Pittsburgh, Allentown and Philly on Wednesday.

Capitol Rotunda - Facing House Chamber

Lawsuit Challenges Voter ID Law

Five organizations and ten individuals have joined a new lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law.  ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak made the announcement, Tuesday, at the state capitol:VoterID3 

While the lawsuit that’s been filed in Commonwealth Court asserts “phantom claims” of in-person voter fraud, Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman says the new law finally gives Pennsylvania a reliable way to verify the identity of a voter.  “You can’t prosecute something you can’t detect,” he explains. 

Ruman believes the law is on solid legal ground and will be upheld in court.  He says the state is working to ensure that everyone who needs a photo ID will get one by the November 6th election. 

Voter ID, ACLU

Vic Walczak address reporters at the state capitol.

Drivers License, PennDOT

Mixed Reviews for Soft Roll-Out of Voter ID Law

Voter ID

Hoover believes signs like these can disenfranchise voters.

Tuesday was billed as a trial run for Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law.  Photo identification was supposed to be requested – not required – at the polling place.  While the ACLU of Pennsylvania was not actively looking for problems, legislative director Andy Hoover did notice several signs suggesting photo ID was required.  “It led to confusion,” Hoover says.  “Despite what the Secretary of State has said it was not smooth, and that was just from the few polling places that we saw.” 

Hoover’s referring to a statement released by the Department of State on Tuesday afternoon.  It reads that Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele visited several polling places in Philadelphia and witnessed the process working well. 

 “There may have been one or two of those bumps but overall – from what we heard from throughout the state – it went very smoothly,” says DOS spokesman Ron Ruman.  He says the department will train poll workers on the new law’s requirements throughout the summer, and reach out to educate voters all the way up to the November 6th general election.   

Ruman also confirmed reports that a few voters refused to show photo ID as an act of protest.  “Folks are certainly entitled to their opinion.  This is America and that’s what makes it a great country, but we don’t feel that the right thing to do is to encourage people to refuse to show their ID.” 

While the Department of state believes that 99% of eligible voters already have an acceptable form of photo ID, Ruman hopes that even the law’s critics will assist the rest in obtaining one by the fall. 

Likewise, Andy Hoover is not encouraging anyone to refuse to show photo identification in November.  He’d rather folks support their pending litigation in hopes of striking down the law, which the ACLU believes disenfranchises voters.

Earlier this year Pennsylvania became the 16th state to enact a Voter ID law.  The goal is to preserve the integrity of every vote.

New Policy May Ease Compliance with Voter ID Law

The Department of State estimates that 99% of eligible voters already have an acceptable form of photo ID under Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law, and they’re simplifying the process for many of the rest. 

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele announced a new policy, Wednesday, which will allow eligible voters with an expired driver’s license to obtain a new non-driver photo ID without having to produce a birth certificate or other proof of identification. 

Secretary Carol Aichele

The theory is that if you have an expired license, you’re already PennDOT’s system, and you’ve already produced proof of ID.  “You don’t even need to produce your expired license.  You just need to give your name to the PennDOT customer service representative and they will locate your information from the database,” Secretary Aichele explained at a capitol news conference.      

Aichele believes this will be especially beneficial for senior citizens who no longer drive.  The new process also applies to expired non-driver photo IDs.    

Next Tuesday’s primary election will mark the “soft roll-out” of the Voter ID law, which means voters will be requested to produce a photo ID – but it will not be required.  “Voters not showing acceptable ID will be given a handout listing the photo IDs that are acceptable in November, and how they can get a free photo ID from PennDOT for voting purposes,” Aichele says. 

The state is budgeting $1-million dollars to cover the cost of issuing those free ID cards to eligible voters who affirm they need them for voting purposes.  Such ID cards would normally run you $13.50

“It is our intent to make sure every eligible voter in Pennsylvania has a photo ID,” Aichele says.  The goal of the new Voter ID law is to ensure the integrity of every vote.