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Judge Rules PA Can't Enforce Voter ID on Election Day

October 3, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Opponents of a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling places on Election Day are calling it a major victory. A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that the law cannot be enforced, because voters haven't had proper access to the new state-issued photo ID cards.

However, David Gersch, an attorney with Arnold and Porter LLP who argued against the law in court, says the issue has not completely been put to rest.

"This ruling simply holds that people can vote in November without having ID. But there's no ruling, as of this point, that the law is constitutional; there's no ruling that the law is not constitutional."

Vic Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says he wants the state to put an immediate halt to radio, television and bus ads that tell Pennsylvanians they need identification to vote.

"Otherwise, there is a possibility of confusion by voters, and folks without ID may just stay home because they wrongly believe they need ID. It could promote confusion among poll workers - and any time you have confusion on Election Day, it's not a good thing for democracy."

The state can appeal the ruling. Walczak suggests that's a decision that may have to come quickly - in the next day or two. He says the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to meet in Pittsburgh in less than two weeks.

"It's our belief that the court was looking at that week as when they might hold a hearing on any appeal, and if that's the case, then certainly there would be time for the court to consider an appeal by either side."

Groups including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Advancement Project and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia all claim the law would have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians on Election Day. Those who back the voter ID law counter that it would help prevent fraud and maintain integrity at the polls.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA