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Viviette Applewhite, lead plaintiff in the Pennsylvania voter ID litigation
Viviette Applewhite, lead plaintiff in the Pennsylvania voter ID litigation
The Hon. Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has denied the ACLU of Pennsylvania's motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to block the implementation of Pennsylvania's voter ID law. His opinion is here (pdf).

His decision is largely premised on three conclusions:

  • That the standard for evaluating claims of impairment of voter rights should be evaluated on a "gross abuse" standard, giving "substantial deference to the judgment of the Legislature" in its decisions regarding the regulation of elections;
  • That because this case was brought up as a facial challenge to the constitutionality to the act, the many examples of how the law would work burdens as applied to particular voters were irrelevant; and
  • To the extent that those citizens were burdened under the law, there were remedies: (1) the pretrial announcement of a new, fewer-documents-needed voting ID card would make IDs more readily available; (2) many elderly voters could cast absentee ballots; and (3) the prospects of Election Day (and post-Election Day) judicial relief to have a citizen's vote counted, based on particular circumstances.
As to the remarks of House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, Judge Simpson called them "disturbing" and "tendentious" (p. 60), but that he declined to infer that other members of the General Assembly shared his "boastful views" expressed outside the legislative chamber, and that so long as neutral justifications for the law also existed, he would not strike down the law because some legislators also had partisan motivations.

Judge Simpson also concluded that "somewhat more than 1 percent and significantly less than 9 percent" of registered voters currently lacked photo ID, and that enjoining the law now would work significant disruption to the Department of State's (and others') efforts to educate voters about the new law and assist them in helping them obtain valid IDs. Greater harm would result, he determined, by immediately blocking those efforts to implement the law, given how difficult it would be to implement those steps only after a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.

The decision will be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It currently sits as three justices elected as Republicans, three as Democrats, with one Republican justice recused from all cases due to her indictment on charges alleging use of state resources for campaign purposes. If the Court is deadlocked, Judge Simpson's decision governs.

Originally posted to Adam B on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 07:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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