Judge delays voter ID, reaction mixed


State Sen. Tina Tartagli­one de­scribed the ef­fort to im­ple­ment a voter iden­ti­fic­a­tion law in time for the Nov. 6 elec­tion a “costly mis­take.”

On Tues­day, Com­mon­wealth Court Judge Robert Simpson is­sued a tem­por­ary in­junc­tion that will al­low Pennsylvani­ans to vote next month without provid­ing iden­ti­fic­a­tion.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the rul­ing comes after mil­lions of dol­lars were wasted try­ing to get this done in time to af­fect the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion,” said Tartagli­one, adding that the money would have been bet­ter spent on help for fam­il­ies with dis­abled chil­dren and oth­er so­cial ser­vices.

Tartagli­one (D-2nd dist.) cred­ited the court with see­ing the “du­bi­ous reas­on­ing” be­hind the law. She urged people frus­trated with the law to ex­press their an­ger by vot­ing.

Demo­crats and lib­er­al in­terest groups op­posed the law be­cause they said it would im­pact their two main con­stitu­en­cies — minor­it­ies and the poor.

Re­pub­lic­ans countered that the law was ne­ces­sary to pre­vent voter fraud.

House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mike Turzai, an Al­legheny County Re­pub­lic­an, tried to put a pos­it­ive spin on Simpson’s rul­ing, not­ing that he up­held the law for en­force­ment in fu­ture elec­tions. Polls show that two-thirds of Pennsylvani­ans back the law.

“Voter iden­ti­fic­a­tion is about en­sur­ing the in­teg­rity of our elec­tions and pre­serving the prin­ciple of the one-per­son, one-vote doc­trine,” he said.

Simpson pre­vi­ously up­held the law for im­ple­ment­a­tion next month, but op­pon­ents ap­pealed to the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court, which presently con­sists of three Re­pub­lic­ans and three Demo­crats.

Sup­port­ers of the law were hope­ful, be­cause it would have re­mained in place with a 3-3 vote of the Su­preme Court. However, the high court sent the case back to Simpson, or­der­ing him to de­term­ine if state agen­cies are mak­ing iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards read­ily avail­able for voters in ad­vance of the elec­tion.

Now, sup­port­ers of the law can ap­peal to Su­preme Court, but the chances of win­ning there ap­pear re­mote. One of the Demo­crat­ic justices would have to vote to ap­prove the law for Novem­ber, and that is not likely to hap­pen.

The ori­gin­al suit against the state was brought by a group of in­di­vidu­als, along with the NAACP, the League of Wo­men Voters and the Home­less Ad­vocacy Pro­ject.

In his writ­ten opin­ion, Simpson said there is not enough time to is­sue all of the iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards to people who need them by Nov. 6.

“Con­sequently, I am still not con­vinced in my pre­dict­ive judg­ment that there will be no voter dis­en­fran­chise­ment arising out of the Com­mon­wealth’s im­ple­ment­a­tion of a voter iden­ti­fic­a­tion re­quire­ment for pur­poses of the up­com­ing elec­tion,” he wrote.

The In­de­pend­ence Hall Tea Party Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Com­mit­tee is ask­ing Gov. Tom Corbett to ap­peal the de­cision to the Su­preme Court to get the judges on re­cord in the mat­ter. The group is sug­gest­ing that it will op­pose Corbett in the Re­pub­lic­an primary in 2014 if he does not ap­peal.

PAC pres­id­ent Don Adams be­lieves Simpson de­cided to “over­rule” him­self rather than have the Su­preme Court do so.

Adams said that, un­less the law is im­ple­men­ted for the Novem­ber elec­tion, his group will work to de­feat Su­preme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille, a Rhawn­hurst res­id­ent, and Justice Max Baer in next year’s re­ten­tion races.

“We are con­cerned that today’s rul­ing could open the doors for voter fraud — par­tic­u­larly in Phil­adelphia and Al­legheny counties — dur­ing the up­com­ing Novem­ber pres­id­en­tial elec­tion,” Adams said.

Jerome Mondesire, pres­id­ent of the NAACP Pennsylvania State Con­fer­ence, said Tues­day’s de­cision should have been made a long time ago.

“With thirty-five days left un­til Elec­tion Day, the state must work with the NAACP and oth­er lead­ing or­gan­iz­a­tions to lim­it voter con­fu­sion,” he said. “We will work to en­sure that poll work­ers do not wrongly en­force the law, and that all counties are mon­itored on Elec­tion Day.”

While in­di­vidu­als won’t need iden­ti­fic­a­tion to vote, they do need to be re­gistered. The re­gis­tra­tion dead­line is Oct. 9. The dead­line to ap­ply for an ab­sent­ee bal­lot is Oct. 30. Ab­sent­ee bal­lots must be re­turned by Nov. 2. ••


You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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