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.
Backed by Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, the law enacted in March 2012 followed similar measures passed in Republican-controlled states, leading opponents to claim the intent is to suppress the votes of lower-income people and the elderly, who may be more inclined to vote for Democrats. Supporters say the laws are needed to prevent voter fraud.
Pennsylvania’s law requires a driver’s license, state-issued ID or acceptable alternative such as a military ID, to cast a ballot. In August, the Pennsylvania Department of State began offering a new cards for voting as a last resort for those unable to obtain a state-issued ID. The state had issued only 16,754 of those free IDs as of June 7, the ACLU said last month in court papers.
Since the November election, the state has “effectively stopped all proactive efforts to get IDs to voters and the issuance of voter IDs has dropped to about 100 per month,” lawyers for the ACLU said in court papers. “There is no basis to believe that the gap will ever be closed.” The state cited no comparable numbers in its own papers filed last month in the case.