PA Voter ID Law Will Stand, Despite Racial Discrimination Worries

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on August 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Pennsylvania's voter ID law can take effect this November, a judge ruled Wednesday. But opponents of the politically divisive law vowed to appeal.

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in November's presidential election, initially pushed for the voter ID law as a way to prevent election fraud, the Associated Press reports. Every Democratic lawmaker voted against it.

But in court, the voter fraud concern was barely discussed, and it wasn't the reason for the judge's decision.

In fact, lawyers for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ceded in court that they were "not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud," the AP reports. Instead, their legal argument focused on lawmakers' proper use of their powers to enact Pennsylvania's voter ID law.

The new law, like those in other states, requires all voters to produce a valid photo ID. Before, Pennsylvania had only required ID for voters who showed up at a polling location for the first time; the old law also allowed non-photo identification via utility bills or bank statements, the AP reports.

Critics who sued to stop the law insist the photo ID requirement is designed to disenfranchise minorities who are far more likely to lack photo IDs, and who largely vote Democratic.

One prominent Pennsylvania Republican seemed to reinforce that argument, when he recently told a GOP gathering that Pennsylvania's voter ID law "is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state," the AP reports.

In Wednesday's decision, the judge -- an elected Republican, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer -- found the new law to be neutral, nondiscriminatory, and uniformly applicable to all voters. State elections officials would enforce the law in a "nonpartisan, even-handed manner," the judge wrote.

Fears of potential problems on Election Day don't justify the "invalidation of all lawful applications" of the law, the judge held, according to the AP.

If the ruling is appealed, the votes of four Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices would be needed to overturn Pennsylvania's voter ID law. The court is currently split between three Republicans and three Democrats; the court's seventh jurist, a Republican, is suspended while she fights corruption charges, the AP reports.

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