Pa. Judge Suggests Dropping Photo Requirement for Provisional Ballots

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Written By admin at Monday, October 1st, 2012


The Oct.2 deadline for a Pennsylvania judge’s decision on the state’s voter ID law, set by the state’s Supreme Court, is getting closer.

Thursday was the final day of hearings on the matter, and Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson dropped a few hints on the direction he may be leaning, asking lawyers how he could alter the photo identification requirement to prevent voter disenfranchisement yet leave most of the law intact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“Provisional ballots seem to the be sticking point,” Judge Simpson said, and offered as one possible solution allowing voters without IDs to use a provisional ballot for this election only, without requiring them to return later with a photo ID. The ballots would be checked to make sure they were from registered voters.

Currently, the law states that anyone who wishes to vote without a photo ID can do so provisionally, but their ballot would only be counted if they can show an ID within six days.

Judge Simpson indicated he didn’t want to overturn the entire statute but would prefer to focus on “the disenfranchising part,” the Post-Gazette noted. He also said the state should continue to educate the public about voter identification requirements, should the law be held constitutional in a full trial.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued in court that anything but a broad injunction would bring confusion and conflicting messages about what they need in order to vote, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The law has strong support in Pennsylvania. A Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS News poll found that 62% of Pennsylvania voters favor the measure, although support is much less among non-white voters — only about 4 in 10.

As Law Blog noted, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week sent the case challenging the state’s voter ID law back to the trial judge with the instruction to block the law if it cannot be implemented without disenfranchising voters.

Law Blog