A Pennsylvania judge has refused to block the state’s furiously debated voter identification law, smoothing the way for its use during the November election.
That ruling Wednesday (August 15) came despite objections from critics, who say the GOP-backed requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls could unevenly burden thousands of poor, minority and elderly would-be voters — a slice of the population less likely to own a valid ID and more likely to vote Democratic.
In a 70-page decision, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said he would not issue an injunction to block implementation of the law ahead of the elections, amid challenges to its constitutionality. The law, called Act 18, was passed by the legislature in March and signed by Governor Tom Corbett.
“Act 18 applies to all qualified electors: to vote in person, everyone must present a photo ID that can be obtained for free,” Simpson wrote. “The statute gives poll workers another tool to verify that the person is who they claim to be.”
Simpson’s decision will be swiftly appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, whose six active judges are evenly split along ideological lines. Four votes would be needed to overturn the law — an outcome some experts say is unlikely.
“This decision is almost certain to stand,” Richard Hasen, a professor of law at the University of California at Irvine, wrote on his election law blog. “The state Justices are unlikely to break on party lines in this case.”
Republican-backed voter ID laws have become a hot button issue in many states. Thirty-seven legislatures have recently considered or enacted tougher voter ID laws, with proponents arguing they will crack down on in-person voter fraud. Proof of such fraud, however, is hard to come by.
A News21 investigation published this week, for instance, found the practice to be “virtually non-existent” across the country. The national team of journalist’s analysis of 2,068 election fraud cases since 2000 found just 10 cases of alleged voter impersonation, an average of one for every 15 million voters.