A new report by Common Cause, found that Pennsylvania is having mixed results in applying the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Alternatively, as WITF stated, “Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.” The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was established in March 2013 by Executive Order 13639 to improve the efficient administration of Federal elections and voter experience. The executive order was passed to address some of the issues of the 2012 . In fact, there were record long lines on the day of the 2012 election. In Texas and Virginia people had to wait up to four hours. The Common Cause report examined ten states that were predicted to have close gubernatorial or congressional races in the mid-term elections.
Editorials: The Debate Over Voting Rights Is Shifting Dramatically. Just Ask Rand Paul. | Ari Berman/The Nation
Last August, after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Rand Paul argued: “I don’t think there is objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer.” (For a comprehensive rebuttal, read Andrew Cohen’s “Here Where Rand Paul Can Find ‘Objective Evidence’ of Voter Suppression.”) Nine months later, Paul is saying of voter ID laws: “it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.” He’s conceded that Republicans have “over-emphasized” the prevalence of voter fraud and has called cutting early voting hours “a mistake.” He’s working with Eric Holder and lobbying in his home state of Kentucky to restore voting rights to non-violent ex-felons. This from a guy who ran for office as a darling of the Tea Party and suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional. Paul’s new religion on voting rights is evidence of a broader shift on the issue. In recent weeks, courts in Wisconsin and Arkansas have struck down voter ID laws and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett decided not to appeal a Commonwealth Court decision in January overturning his state’s voter ID law
Gov. Tom Corbett put another nail in the coffin of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law on Thursday, announcing he would not appeal a judge’s decision that the law violated the fundamental right to vote. The Republican governor issued a statement that defended the law, but he also said it needed changes and that he hoped to work with the Legislature on them. “It is clear that the requirement of photo identification is constitutionally permissible,” he said. “However, the court also made clear that in order for a voter identification law to be found constitutional, changes must be made to address accessibility to photo identifications.” The centerpiece of the law — a requirement that nearly all of the state’s 8.2 million voters show photo ID at the polls — was declared unconstitutional in January by a Commonwealth Court judge who said it imposed an unreasonable burden on the right to vote and that supporters had failed to demonstrate a need for it.
A judge made a host of mistakes in deciding to throw out the Pennsylvania’s requirement that voters display photo identification, lawyers for Gov. Tom Corbett argued in a court filing Monday. The team of private lawyers and the attorney general’s office asked in 39 pages of post-trial arguments that the law be reinstated, the decision revised or a new trial ordered. The filing says Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley wrongly decided the law was unconstitutional because of how it was implemented, and took issue with his rejection of a Department of State-created ID card. “The statute cannot be declared facially unconstitutional based solely on flaws found in the executive’s reading or administration of the statute,” Corbett’s lawyers argued. McGinley ruled Jan. 17 that the law did not further the goal of free and fair elections, saying it lacked a viable means to make photo IDs easily available.
Pennsylvania: Corbett’s administration signals it will keep fighting for Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law | PennLive.com
The Corbett Administration signaled its intent Monday to keep fighting for a strong voter identification law in Pennsylvania by asking Commonwealth Court to reconsider a judge’s decision striking the law down. The 2012 law – considered one of the more stringent of its type in the nation and requiring nearly all voters to show photo identification when they went to the polling place – was struck down by Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley earlier this month. McGinley said the mandatory photo requirement placed an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote. He also asserted the state had not been able to prove that it was necessary. Because McGinley’s decision followed a trial last summer on complaints brought by voters, Corbett’s first move was to file post-trial motions raising appellate issues before the full court. Under Pennsylvania’s rules, a trial court must have the chance to review its decision before an appeal could be taken to a higher court.
A judge made a host of mistakes in deciding to throw out the Pennsylvania’s requirement that voters display photo identification, lawyers for Gov. Tom Corbett argued in a court filing Monday. The team of private lawyers and the attorney general’s office asked in 39 pages of post-trial arguments that the law be reinstated, the decision revised or a new trial ordered. The filing says Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley wrongly decided the law was unconstitutional because of how it was implemented, and took issue with his rejection of a Department of State-created ID card. “The statute cannot be declared facially unconstitutional based solely on flaws found in the executive’s reading or administration of the statute,” Corbett’s lawyers argued.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane has stated that the decision on whether to appeal the overturn of Voter ID will be the Governor’s. Last week, Judge McGinley found that implementation efforts were insufficient to ensure free and fair elections, but also that the voter ID law is unconstitutional. When the ruling came out, many turned to Kane for her decision on whether to appeal the ruling. She served as co-counsel to the Governor and Secretary of the Commonwealth along with an outside firm commissioned by the Office of General Counsel. Today, Kane’s office released a statement saying that “To avoid further public confusion, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane clarifie[d] that decision to appeal voter ID court ruling rests solely with Governor and Secretary of the Commonwealth.”
During the 2012 presidential election I accompanied some canvassers going door to door in Philadelphia. Their aim was to remind people in this pivotal swing state to vote and to vote Democrat. Again and again, the big concern among the folks opening their doors was the state’s new and very strict voter-ID law, which required voters to provide a government-issued picture ID. The law would have made it impossible for hundreds of thousands—some say 750,000—of people to vote, most of them likely to vote Democratic. Not even government-issued welfare cards and military identification cards were acceptable. Plenty of older Philadelphians, many of them black, do not even have a birth certificate.
A state-paid ad campaign to showcase Pennsylvania’s voter photo ID law is generating controversy several weeks before the municipal election. Democratic senators called Wednesday for scrapping the “Show It” campaign, saying it only misleads and confuses voters into believing they need a photo ID to vote in the Nov. 5 election. The ads started airing on TV, radio and the Internet more than one month after a state judge ruled in August that voters won’t need to show photo ID at the polls Nov. 5 while a legal challenge continues to the 2012 law. Poll workers will be able to ask voters to show a photo ID on that day, but they can’t stop someone who lacks one from casting a vote. The ad displays a photo ID with a voice-over saying if you care about the election, then show it. As the ad wraps up, it mentions that no ID is required for this election and provides information about how to obtain a photo ID.
A Pittsburgh judge on Friday barred enforcement of Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law for the Nov. 5 general election, as well as any election that may come before. State Judge Bernard McGinley’s preliminary injunction means Pennsylvania will again go the polls with no enforcement of the law – a different judge made similar ruling a month before the 2012 presidential election. In fact, the controversial law has never been implemented; it has languished in a legal limbo since Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in March of 2012.
A judge extended the trial over Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law Wednesday into a 12th day after lawyers called a truce in a behind-the-scenes battle and the state filed a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley scheduled closing arguments, which lawyers on both sides had expected as early as Wednesday, for Thursday. The March 2012 law was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature without any Democratic votes and signed by GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, but court orders have prevented it from being enforced. Democrats charged that it was a cynical attempt in a presidential election year to discourage voting by minorities, young adults and other groups that tend to vote Democratic. Republicans said it bolsters the security of Pennsylvania’s elections, though state officials have conceded that they are not aware of any cases of voter impersonation.
Two weeks into the trial on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law, both sides profess confidence that they will prevail. That’s probably a good indication that neither is really sure. After nine days of testimony by state government bureaucrats, nationally known experts on statistics and communications and individual voters frustrated by the new photo ID requirement, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley put the trial on hold for a four-day weekend as lawyers prepare to sum up their cases in closing arguments anticipated next week. The issue is where the line should be drawn between Pennsylvanians’ right to vote and the state’s interest in protecting the integrity of elections. So far, the debate has been largely hypothetical _ the court has blocked enforcement of the March 2012 law since before the presidential election _ but the trial verdict will be a major step toward deciding whether it is allowed to take effect. The law would require all voters to show a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another acceptable photo ID with a current expiration date before they may cast ballots in an election. Voters who go to the polls without proper ID could only cast provisional ballots, which would be counted only if they provide local officials with an acceptable ID within six days after the election.
As a trial over the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law stretched into a second week in Commonwealth Court, attorneys for the challengers introduced evidence Monday showing that state officials had raised concerns about the potential disenfranchisement of senior citizens in the months leading up to the bill’s final passage. Michael Rubin, an Arnold & Porter LLP attorney representing the challengers, pointed to a memo penned by officials in the Department of State and the Department of Aging in November 2011 raising concerns that voters residing in assisted living facilities that double as polling places might be robbed of their votes if they don’t qualify for absentee ballots and are unable to obtain qualifying IDs due to their age or medical condition. The memo recommended that absentee ballot requirements — which currently mandate that a voter submit an affidavit swearing their inability to make it to the polls on account of illness or disability — be expanded for individuals whose long-term care facilities also serve as polling places. While these individuals might be able to get to their polling places on Election Day, the memo suggested, there was a chance they might be unable to obtain proper IDs from one of 71 driver’s license centers throughout the state.
A former policy director for Pennsylvania’s Department of State defended the state’s tough voter identification law Monday as a reasonable compromise that followed intense negotiations, even though it omits changes that the department proposed to ease some of the requirements. Lawyers for plaintiffs seeking to overturn the mandatory photo ID requirement Monday questioned the official, Rebecca Oyler about memos and emails describing negotiations over the legislation in late 2011. Oyler cited examples of her department’s suggestions that were rejected. One called for excusing residents of long-term care facilities from the photo requirement and allowing them to vote through the simpler process of absentee voting. Instead, the law allows the facilities to issue photo IDs. When asked if the department could do anything more to improve it, Oyler replied, “I think we’ve done everything that we see as being reasonable.”
Pennsylvania: Corbett administration officials had concerns about disenfranchising voters, memo suggests | PennLive.com
Officials from the state Departments of State and Aging recognized early on the problem that the voter ID legislation might pose to Pennsylvanians who are older, ill or disabled, according to attorneys challenging the state’s voter ID law. Those officials sent a memo to Gov. Tom Corbett’s office in November 2011, when the law was still being debated, about allowing voters in those circumstances who couldn’t get to a PennDOT center to get a photo ID to vote by absentee ballot. The governor’s office denied the request, said Michael Rubin, a Washington, D.C. attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania-led coalition that is seeking to permanently overturn the law. In his opening arguments in the trial that began Monday in Commonwealth Court on the state’s voter ID law, Rubin noted that the memo would be introduced as new evidence to show that even members of Corbett’s administration recognized the potential it presented in disenfranchising voters.
A trial set to begin Monday on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law represents a major step toward a judicial ruling on whether the photo requirement should be enforced at polling places statewide or thrown out as unconstitutional. Nine days are set aside for the trial in Harrisburg in Commonwealth Court. Civil libertarians challenging the law and state officials defending it say they expect the state Supreme Court will ultimately decide the case. At issue is a voter ID law that would be one of the strictest in the nation if it is upheld but has never been enforced.
Opponents of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law are asking a judge to overturn the Republican-backed legislation, which requires voters to show photo ID to cast a ballot. Judge Bernard McGinley of Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg will hear opening statements from attorneys for organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union on whether the law is unconstitutional and disenfranchises groups of voters including the poor and elderly. State officials were temporarily barred from enforcing the law in the November and May elections. This lawsuit is really about a bad law that is badly written,” Michael Rubin, an attorney for the plaintiffs with the firm Arnold & Porter LLP, told reporters July 11 on a media call. As many as 410,000 people, or 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s eligible electorate, might be barred from voting under the statute, according to the ACLU.
Pennsylvania: Protesters clamor in Harrisburg on eve of trial for voter ID law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Calling the state’s yet-to-be implemented voter ID law a thinly veiled attempt at voter suppression, more than 100 people rallied in the state Capitol Thursday, just days before a trial on the controversial law is set to begin. “Harrisburg is ground zero in the fight for voting rights in the North,” said Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, speaking to the crowd in the Capitol Rotunda. Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill in March 2012 requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The law was quickly challenged; a lawsuit was filed later that month by seven voters and the American Civil Liberties Union. Critics of the law have said it would leave many people disenfranchised, and particularly targets low-income people, seniors, minorities and those in urban areas.
Pennsylvania’s long-sidelined voter identification law is about to go on trial. Civil libertarians who contend that the statute violates voters’ rights persuaded a state judge to bar enforcement of the photo ID requirement during the 2012 presidential election and the May primary. But those were temporary orders based on a narrower context; the trial set to begin July 15 in Commonwealth Court will explore the more complicated constitutional questions. It could be the beginning of a long process. Lawyers in the case say a panel of Commonwealth Court judges may weigh in following the trial, before what both sides expect will be an appeal by the loser to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
With less than a week to go until voters head to the polls, Pennsylvania officials say they’re working with county governments to ensure that after-effects from Hurricane Sandy won’t stop balloting from beginning Tuesday as planned. The Department of State is assessing what election-related obstacles may have been created by this week’s storm, with a report expected by today or Thursday. Counties that shut down their offices as the storm approached have been authorized to extend their absentee-ballot application deadlines to as late as Thursday evening.
Cheryl Ann Moore stepped into the state’s busiest driver’s licensing center, got a ticket with the number C809 on it and a clipboard with a pen attached by rubber band, and began her long wait Thursday to become a properly documented voter. Six blocks away, inside an ornate and crowded City Hall courtroom, a lawyer was arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the state’s controversial new voter ID law would strip citizens of their rights and should be enjoined. Just outside, on Thomas Paine Plaza, the NAACP president was inveighing against a modern-day poll tax at a boisterous rally of a few hundred opponents. Moore bent over a folding table and carefully filled out the form a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation worker had given her, in the first line she would stand in that day. Her ticket was time-stamped 11:38 a.m. and gave an estimated wait time of 63 minutes, which, said Moore, didn’t seem so bad. She had been registered to vote since she was 19, and now she was 54.
On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments about the state’s strict new photo ID law, which is allegedly intended to prevent voter fraud. A voter must present a government-issued or other approved photo ID at a polling place to vote or can file a provisional ballot, which must be validated later by a submission of a photo ID or proof that the voter is indigent. The state has offered no evidence of voter identity fraud to justify this law. There is no legitimate government interest that justifies the burden the law imposes on voters. If the court does not block the law, it will cause irreparable harm. In Philadelphia, for instance, almost one-fifth of the registered voters may not have an acceptable form of identification to vote on Election Day. Statewide, almost one-tenth may not. When he signed the law in March, Gov. Tom Corbett claimed that it “sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.” But, at a meeting of the Republican State Committee in June, the House majority leader, Mike Turzai, boasted that it would “allow Governor Romney to win the State of Pennsylvania.”
Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court justices on Thursday aggressively questioned whether a politically charged law requiring photo identification from each voter should take effect for the Nov. 6 presidential election and whether it guarantees the right to vote. With the election just 54 days away, the justices did not say when they will decide, although lawyers in the case expected them to rule before the end of September. The high court appeal follows a lower court’s refusal last month to halt the law from taking effect. The law , championed by Republicans over the objections of Democrats , is now part of the heated election-year political rhetoric in the presidential swing state and has inspired protests, warnings of Election Day chaos and voter education drives.
Two government offices, three hour-long lines, two 78-mile trips, two week-long waiting periods, four forms of identity and two signed affidavits later, Pennsylvanians will be allowed to vote. Under the state’s new voter ID laws,, which require every voter to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls, that is the epic process thousands of native Pennsylvanians have to go through to get the ID required to cast their ballots in November. And they now have just 56 days to complete it before the election. “It was hell all told,” said Jan Klincewicz, who helped his 87-year-old mother, Jisele, through the process. “To have to go through that kind of rigmarole to exercise her right to vote I think is excessive.”
Voting Blogs: Pennsylvania Refuses to Comply with U.S. Dept. of Justice Photo ID Document Request | Brad Blog
Pennsylvania has refused to turn over documents that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) had sought in order to determine whether the state’s new polling place Photo ID restriction law is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and other federal laws. As previously reported by The BRAD BLOG, on July 23, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez submitted afour-page letter [PDF] to Carol Aichele, the Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (coincidentally, the wife of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Chief of Staff), requesting information in electronic format for 16 broad categories of documents that the DoJ felt were needed to evaluate whether the Keystone State’s Photo ID law complied with federal laws barring discriminatory election laws. In an Aug. 17 letter [PDF], the Commonwealth’s General Counsel, James D. Schultz, responded to Perez, by telling him that PA would not comply with what Schultz described as an “unprecedented attempt to compel [PA], a state not within the purview Section 5 of the VRA, to present information concerning compliance with Section 2 of the VRA.”
Pennsylvania: Testy defense: If the state’s voter ID law is fair, what’s the worry? | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Corbett administration must subscribe to the theory that a strong offense is the best defense. Its response to a request from the U.S. Justice Department for information concerning Pennsylvania’s compliance with the Voting Rights Act starts out with sarcasm and goes on to accuse its Civil Rights Division of engaging in a political stunt. This from a Republican administration that oversaw the passage of a new voter identification law that could keep an untold number of citizens from exercising their right to cast ballots in the upcoming presidential election. By the Corbett administration’s various tellings, the voter ID law will negatively impact a scant 1 percent of the state’s eligible voters (says the governor’s office) and nearly 759,000 registered voters lack appropriate ID from the state Department of Transportation (says the secretary of the commonwealth who oversees the election department). That discrepancy alone justifies the interest of the Civil Rights Division, which sought, among other items, records supporting those assertions, along with the complete state voter registry and PennDOT’s lists of licensed drivers and those holding PennDOT-issued non-driver ID cards.
Strategies will shift as the first court battle over Pennsylvania’s new law requiring voters to show valid photo identification heads to the state Supreme Court, while other legal hurdles could surface and political campaigns lumber toward the November election.
The law’s Republican backers and, they say, the integrity of the Nov. 6 presidential election were the winners of Wednesday’s decision by a state appellate judge to reject an injunction that would have halted the law from taking effect in November, as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality. About a dozen rights groups and registered voters filed an appeal Thursday. Democrats say the law will trample the right to vote for countless people in an echo of the now-unconstitutional poll taxes and literacy tests once designed to discriminate against poor and minority voters. The GOP-penned law, signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in March and opposed by every Democratic lawmaker, has ignited a furious debate over voting rights in Pennsylvania, which is poised to play a starring role in deciding the presidential contest.
Lawyers are asking the state’s highest court for a speedy review of the appeal, requesting that oral arguments be scheduled during the court’s session in Philadelphia the week of Sept. 10.
The two-week trial challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law ended today. Here’s what we learned from the proceedings. Suffice to say, Pennsylvania Republicans didn’t come out looking very good. 1. A lot of voters don’t have valid voter ID. University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto, a witness for the plaintiffs (the suit was brought by the ACLU, the Advancement Project and other voting rights groups), found more than 1 million registered voters in Pennsylvania—12.8 percent of the electorate—don’t have sufficient voter ID. Moreover,379,000 registered voters don’t have the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, needed to obtain the right ID; 174,000 of them voted in 2008.
At a recent meeting of the Pennsylvania GOP State Committee, the top Republican in the state House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, declared that a new requirement for voters to show identification with a photograph on it “is going to allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” He drew wild applause from Republicans in the crowd. The new law being referred to won approval under the state’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the GOP majority in the state legislature. The result is that 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million voters are suddenly at risk of losing their right to vote. Eighteen percent of the registered voters in Philadelphia do not have government issued photographic identification. That means they won’t be able to vote.
Closing arguments got underway Thursday in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s new photo voter identification law. The outcome could determine if voters are required to present a photo ID at the voting booth on Election Day in November. After Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the measure into law in March, voter advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, quickly challenged it. They said the law will deter elderly and minority voters, who are less likely to have photo identification, from voting. These groups tend to vote Democratic. Proponents say the law will prevent voter fraud. The week-long case included testimony from Lorraine Minnite, a Rutgers University expert on voter fraud, who said such fraud was “exceedingly rare.” “I’m just not persuaded in the absence of evidence it exists,” she said.