A lower court judge has made a decision to halt Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law just five weeks before voters decide whether to re-elect President Barack Obama, a Democrat, or replace him with Mitt Romney, a Republican.
Under the law, people would have needed a valid photo ID with an expiration date to vote at the polls.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett claimed the law was only designed to prevent election fraud. Critics argued however that it was a Republican-driven law that would sway younger people and elderly people from voting. They also claimed it was too complicated and tough for people to go to PennDot to get their ID cards, especially seniors who may no longer have a driver’s license or can’t find their birth card or social security card.
On Tuesday, Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson ruled a preliminary injunction has been granted in the case.
In the ruling, Simpson states the following:
AND NOW, this 2nd day of October, 2012, after supplemental hearing and after consideration of the oral and written arguments of counsel, it is ORDERED and DECREED as follows:
Petitioners’ Application for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED in part. Based on the foregoing Supplemental Determination, the Respondents and their agents, servants and officers are hereby PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from:
1) Requiring that a registered elector must apply for a PennDOT product prior to the elector’s seeking issuance of a free DOS ID; and
2) Implementing or enforcing that part of Act 18 which amends Section 1210(a.2) of the Election Code, 25 P.S. §3050(a.2), and Section 1210(a.4)(5)(ii) of the Election Code, 25 P.S. §3050(a.4), for the general election of November 6, 2012. It is the intent of this Preliminary Injunction to extend the transition procedures described in Section 10(1) of Act 18 beyond September 17, 2012, and through the general election of November 6, 2012. Nothing in this Preliminary Injunction shall preclude the Commonwealth from following transition procedures described in Section 10(2) of Act 18 (relating to additional education efforts to those not showing proof of identification for in-person voting) for the general election of November 6, 2012. All other provisions of Act 18 remain in effect.
The Court shall conduct a status conference with counsel on Thursday, December 13, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 3001, third floor, Pennsylvania Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Petitioners shall arrange for a court reporter to be present. After the conference, the Court shall issue a scheduling order pertaining to the close of pleadings, completion of discovery, and trial on the application for a permanent injunction.
Unless it's appealed back up to the supreme court, voters won't need to show photo ID in order to vote during this election, as long as they're registered. They will be able to cast provisional ballots. If you are a first time voter however, you will need to show ID.
"I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time," said Simpson. "For this reason, I accept Petitioners' argument that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed."
"Certainly in terms of this election, it was being implemented too quickly," said Zach Stalberg of the Committee of Seventy. "There were too many changes in the rules and too much legal action. If this stands then it will be a victory for voters really, making it easier to vote in the November election."
After the announcement was made, the Obama campaign reacted to the news:
Today’s decision means one thing for Pennsylvanians: eligible voters can vote on Election Day, just like they have in previous elections in the state.
The right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American. The President and his campaign are committed to making sure that every eligible voter, regardless of party, has the ability to make their voices heard and participate in the electoral process.
We encourage voters who have questions about voting to call our toll free Voter Hotline at 855-834-VOTE (8683) and to register by next Tuesday’s deadline, October 9. Regardless of party affiliation, we support ensuring any voter eligible to cast a ballot has the right to do so.
Pa. GOP Chairman Rob Gleason also reacted to the decision:
I am disappointed by today’s ruling to postpone the full implementation of a commonsense reform that helps protect the sanctity of our electoral process. We shouldn’t have to wait for this commonsense reform to be enacted. With that being said, Voter ID is still Pennsylvania law, was found to be constitutional and we will work to encourage voters to bring their photo identification with them to the polls.
Poll after poll has shown that Pennsylvanians from both political parties overwhelmingly support Voter ID legislation because, despite the empty rhetoric to the contrary, this legislation is still about ensuring one person, one vote. Our Party remains committed to the citizens of the Commonwealth and we will do all that we can to ensure free and fair elections.
NBC10 also spoke with local residents who shared their thoughts.
"I think it's a good idea to do away," said one woman. "However for the next election, with the four years to go by, I think that's enough time to be implemented properly and for people to have enough time to get what they need to have for ID."
"You had to jump through hoops to get it corrected," said one man. "And that's not right either. They required everybody to bring two forms of identification and two or three different utility bills. That's kind of overkill."
"Voting is a right," said another man. "We came all this way to have the right to vote."
Late in the day, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter sent out a statement thanking the organizations that challenged the law.
"This law was a bad solution looking for a non-existent problem, and we have other things to focus on -- like making sure that people are registered to vote by October 9th," Nutter said.
That's the registration deadline in Pennsylvania for people who want to vote in the November election.