On August 16, 2013, Pennsylvania Judge Bernard McGinley issued a preliminary injunction to block Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law from affecting Pennsylvania elections in November. This preliminary injunction was the result of a lawsuit, Applewhite v. Commonwealth. Though the trial concluded on July 31, 2013, the judge is still deliberating on whether a permanent injunction is appropriate. However, the preliminary injunction made it clear that Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show poll workers photo identification in order to vote in the 2013 November general election. The injunction also restricted the voter ID law’s “soft rollout” features. These features would have required poll workers to inform voters that they would need photo ID to vote in the next election. The judge’s recent preliminary injunction does away with this requirement. Poll workers may still ask to see photo ID, but the voters still do not have to produce it in order to vote.
Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law was supposed to take effect in 2012, but most of its provisions have yet to see the light of day. On May 1, 2012, various interest groups and law firms filed a lawsuit for a permanent injunction against the Voter ID Law. These interest groups and firms represented the 92-year old Viviette Applewhite and her fellow plaintiffs. Ms. Applewhite has voted in all presidential elections save one since the 1960’s, but despite her best efforts she was unable to obtain a suitable form of identification that would satisfy the Voter ID Law. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied the request for a preliminary injunction on August 15, 2012. The court’s opinion at that time hinged upon the availability of Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) identification cards, which are available for free at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Driver License Centers.
The court predicted that this option would mitigate any burden the law imposes upon individuals lacking appropriate photo ID. Furthermore, the court refused to sustain the petitioners’ facial challenge to the constitutionality of the law. The judge reasoned that the petitioners focused their facial challenge on the short-term implementation of the law, rather than attacking future circumstances in which the law might be valid. The court thus held that the petitioners failed to raise a proper facial challenge because they did not prove that the law would be invalid under any set of circumstances. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the Commonwealth Court’s order denying a preliminary injunction, and remanded the case back to the Commonwealth Court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the Commonwealth Court had made an improper predictive judgment that the DOS cards, combined with voter education efforts, would be sufficient to prevent voter disenfranchisement. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the petitioners’ (now appellants) facial challenge could be sustained even if the law might be validly enforced in the future.