State Taking More Steps to Ease Voter ID Card Process

As Commonwealth Court takes another look at the Voter ID law, directed by the state Supreme Court to review availability, officials have announced a new step to streamline the process of getting an ID before Election Day.  They say it should only require one trip to a PennDOT licensing center.

Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman says registered voters will have the option of getting a voting only ID card, even if they would qualify for a secure PennDOT ID. He says there’s a lesser level of identification to get the DOS ID.  He says all the registered voter needs to do is provide a name, date of birth and Social Security number.

Ruman says if there is a problem verifying that information; the department will reconcile that issue and mail the ID to the voter.  He says if issues remain, voters should call 1-877-VOTES-PA.

Ruman says the change is in response to the court review of the law. He says the state Supreme Court called into question whether requiring people to go through the process to see if they qualified for a secure PennDOT ID before they were offered the Department of State Voter ID card was consistent with the General Assembly’s intent to provide liberal access to a voter ID card.  He says they have been making adjustments as the law is being implemented.

Ruman adds that the Department of State card is only good for voting while the PennDOT card can also be used for things like boarding a plane, cashing a check or any other reason that you’d need an ID.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 09.21.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul bring you the latest twists and turns in the Voter ID case. Auditor General Jack Wagner talks about municipal pensions, and how did the Starland Vocal Band get a mention in the show?

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


Voter ID Case Goes Back to Commonwealth Court

The state’s highest court issued a ruling today, which sends the controversial Voter ID case back to Commonwealth Court for further investigation.  The seven page order indicates that photo ID requirements are, in fact, constitutional but the question remains implementation. 

The Supreme Court cites an aggressive timetable and an implementation process that’s been anything but seamless in its call for the Commonwealth Court to assess the availability of alternate identification cards for those without a PennDOT ID or the papers needed to obtain one. 

Upon the assessment, Commonwealth Court must decide whether voter disenfranchisement exists.  If it does, the lower court will called upon to issue a temporary injunction.  If not, the law will stand.  The high court has set an October 2nd deadline for that decision. 

Two justices issued dissenting opinions.  Justice Debra McCloskey Todd says the structure and timing of the law will disenfranchise voters.  Justice Seamus McCaffery contends the reason for implementing the new requirement so quickly is purely political. 

A Department of State spokesman tells Radio PA that any voter who wants an ID for voting purposes will be able to get one.  “We’re pleased to provide what we believe will be supporting information to that effect.”

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 09.14.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul, along with the Pennsylvania Cable Network, take you into a session of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Philadelphia, where you will hear arguments on two major cases: Voter ID and state legislative redistricting. Governor Tom Corbett also weighs in on the latest developments regarding the Voter ID bill he signed into law this year.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


High Court Hears Voter ID Arguments, Decision Pending

Six months after it was signed into law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was hearing arguments over the state’s controversial new Voter ID law in its Philadelphia chambers.  The entire session was broadcast live, statewide via PCN TV

The appellants’ lawyer David Gersch argued that the new photo identification requirements violate Pennsylvanians’ right to vote by disenfranchising many and burdening others.  “On Election Day, if Act 18 is not enjoined, then voters will be faced with the serious threat of losing the right to vote,” Gersch argued.  “By contract, if the injunction is entered, the harm to the Commonwealth is negligible.”

Gersch contends Voter ID is no mere election regulation because it does not guarantee that all qualified electors will be able to get the identification they need to cast a ballot.  Gersch did, however, acknowledge that all Voter ID laws are not necessarily unconstitutional.  “The vice is not requiring photo identification; the vice is in requiring photo identification that people do not have, and have a hard time getting.”      

The appellants are seeking a preliminary injunction so that the status quo remains in place through the November 6th General Election.  A full trial on the merits of the statute would then be held at a later date. 

A Commonwealth Court judge has already denied the preliminary injunction, writing in his opinion that he sees no reason why Pennsylvania voters need be disenfranchised. 

The state’s lawyers stressed the findings of the lower court throughout their arguments, stating that the plaintiffs failed to show either that they will succeed on the merits of their claims or that they would suffer irreparable harm.  Attorney John Knorr also pointed out that all of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit have either obtained a valid photo ID or have the means to do so.  “They couldn’t come up with one plaintiff, one actual human being, who would be harmed by this statute.” 

“Mr. Gersch said we should have a process in place so that everybody has the chance to get this ID, and we have that,” Knorr told the court as he praised the efforts of PennDOT and the Department of State. 

A panel of six justices must decide the law’s fate with just over 50 days to go until the election.  With one justice currently suspended, the court is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats.  In the event of a deadlock, the Commonwealth Court decision would be upheld and the new photo ID requirements would be in place on Election Day.

Voter-ID Arguments Begin

History is being made as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opens its session today with arguments for and against Pennsylvania’s new Voter-ID law. In addition to considering a case that is receiving national attention, the high court is allowing its proceedings to be aired on live television on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Billing themselves as the oldest Supreme Court in the nation, dating back more than 300 years, PA’s justices are considering two major cases today: Voter-ID and the state legislative boundaries which were drawn, and then redrawn, during the redistricting process of 2011-2012. The Court overturned a previous legislative map in January, leaving this year’s elections to maps drawn in 2001.

Under the Voter-ID law, also known as Act 18, voters are required to present a valid photo ID at the polls before voting. Critics say it puts an undue burden on segments of the voting population. If the law is upheld, it will be in effect for the November 6th election.

Today’s session is also unusual in that one of the 7 Justices, Republican Joan Orie Melvin, has had to step aside to fight corruption charges. That leaves the court split 3-3 along assumed party lines, opening the door for a possible tie ruling. In that event, the Commonwealth Court ruling that refused to issue an injunction to block Voter-ID would stand.

PCN will be airing arguments in both cases throughout the day. The Supreme Court is meeting in Philadelphia for today’s session.


PA Supreme Court to Hear Voter ID Arguments

Nearly a month after a Commonwealth Court judge rejected Voter ID opponents’ plea for a preliminary injunction, the state Supreme Court is prepping to hear oral arguments on appeal.  Governor Tom Corbett has read Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson’s opinion, calling it well-reasoned.  “His opinion would have to be in error for [the Supreme Court] to overturn it,” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program. 

With one justice currently suspended, the high court is comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans.  Corbett believes they will make their decision based on the law, not partisanship.  “That being said, as you know, if it’s three to three… then the opinion of Judge Simpson stands,” Corbett explained. 

PCN will provide live coverage of Thursday’s session in Philadelphia per a recent broadcast agreement with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

As the state presses forward with voter education efforts and implementation of the Voter ID law, the NAACP is working to get people the photo IDs required to vote on Election Day through of series of statewide Voter ID clinics.  “We try to help work through all the questions, provide the answers,” says Pennsylvania Civic Engagement Coordinator John Jordan. 

Jordan says about 75% of the people who attend the clinics actually have a form of photo ID that meets the law’s requirements, but they are happy to identify and assist the other 25%.  The NAACP opposes the Voter ID law and is participating in the lawsuit, but Jordan says the group’s outreach efforts will continue as long as necessary. 

Complete details on what types of ID are to be accepted under the new law, and how to obtain one for free, can be found online. 

Gov. Corbett sees no reason for confusion this November.  “It has been in the newspapers, it has been on the radio, it has been on television, it has been on the Internet.  If you don’t know that you need to show up with photo ID, than I don’t know where you’ve been.”

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.

Drivers License, PennDOT

Preliminary Injunction Denied for Voter ID Law

A Commonwealth Court judge has denied opponents’ request for a preliminary injunction against Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law.  In his 70-page opinion, Judge Robert Simpson says the petitioners did an excellent job of “putting a face” to those burdened by the photo ID requirement.  However, he writes that he cannot decide the issue based on sympathy for the witnesses.

Judge Simpson also indicated that he’s convinced the law is being implemented in a non-partisan, evenhanded manner so that no qualified voter should be disenfranchised.

The plaintiffs have previously indicated that they would take the case to the state Supreme Court if necessary.