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. ••