A Commonwealth Court judge ruled Tuesday that Pennsylvania's controversial new voter ID law can remain mostly intact for the November election, but will impose a very narrow injunction that will allow even those without identification to vote.
In his ruling, which is widely expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ordered an injunction that would target the portion of the law that deals with provisional ballots.
As written, the law said voters who do not bring proper photo ID on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot. They would then have six days to bring in the required photo ID for their votes to count.
But as he had indicated last week during hearings in the case, Simpson decided that the law does not disenfranchise voters simply because it requires poll workers to ask for photo ID. Rather, the risk comes when a voter casts a provisional ballot but then cannot obtain the necessary identification in time.
As a result, Simpson decided that for the Nov. 6 election only, voters without appropriate photo ID could vote, but would no longer have to produce identification within six days, as their votes would be counted.
Attorneys seeking to block the law from taking effect for the next election had contended that anything short of an outright injunction would result in some voters being disenfranchised.
They argued that a partial injunction would create two classes of voters, since election rules require that provisional ballots be counted not on Election Day but at a later date, at which point they could also be subject to challenges from political parties and ultimately not be counted.
Attorneys for Gov. Tom Corbett's administration had countered that an injunction must only address "unlawful activity," and that a court must take care not to drag lawful activity under that umbrella. They pointed out that other courts have said requiring a voter to present photo identification is lawful.
(c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer