The state’s voter identification law is still slated to go into effect this November.
On Wednesday, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson denied a request for an injunction that would have stopped the law from making its Presidential election debut.
The state’s voter identification law is still slated to go into effect this November.
On Wednesday, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson denied a request for an injunction that would have stopped the law from making its Presidential election debut. (PDF).
Barring a successful appeal in Pennsylvania Supreme Court, every voter will be required to present valid photo ID at the polls before casting a ballot.
“Act 18 has a plainly legitimate sweep,” wrote Simpson in his decision. “It imposes only a limited burden on voters’ rights, and the burden does not outweigh the statue’s plainly legitimate sweep.”
The ACLU and others filed a lawsuit in May challenging the law’s constitutionality; the lead plaintiff in the suit is a 93-year-old woman from Germantown.
Opponents of the law, who argue that the legislation will disenfranchise thousands, are not pleased with Simpson’s decision.
Lawmakers, activists and others in Northwest Philadelphia (and beyond) offered reactions throughout the day to the Commonwealth Court ruling.
Cindy Bass, Eighth District City Councilwoman:
“As many Philadelphians are today, I am disappointed by the ruling by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to deny an injunction against the photo identification requirement ahead of this November’s election. This detrimental law will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters across the Commonwealth and the City.
“While this decision is troubling, my office and I are committed to protecting each Philadelphian’s right to vote. We will continue working with my colleagues in Council and various groups to educate voters and ensure that those who need acceptable identification will have it by Election Day.”
Curtis Jones, Fourth District City Councilman, council’s majority leader:
“Along with my Council colleagues, we are vigorously preparing initiatives to get ready for Nov. 6. The photo ID law is nothing more than today’s version of poll taxes and grandfather clauses. Data has proven there is no such fraud in voting in the United States or subsequently in Pennsylvania.
“This law’s only objective is to minimize the voices of the elderly, poor, disadvantaged and minorities throughout our Commonwealth. There is no reason to be coy; this is just another sense of ‘Romney-hood,’ a way to take from the poor to advantage the rich.”
Dwight Evans, state representative (D-203):
“I’m disappointed. We should not be putting any impediments on voting. Voting is something extremely essential. My issue is to do what I can control, and that’s going house-to-house and door-to-door to let people know about this.”
Chris Robinson, at-large member of Green Party of Philadelphia City Committee, Germantown resident:
“It’s a shame. That’s a disaster. I am sure the ACLU will appeal to the Supreme Court, and no one knows what they are going to say.”
Greg Paulmier, four-time City Council Candidate, Germantown resident:
“It’s disappointing. It disenfranchises a lot of folks who are eligible voters, clearly registered to vote. And when you disenfranchise an electorate, you begin to erode the very fundamentals of democracy.”
J.P. Miranda, 197th state legislative district, Democratic candidate:
“At this point in time, we should not be creating barriers, but encouraging people to vote,” he said, noting the decision was “upsetting personally” and citing statistics which suggest that 57 percent of the voters in his district have ID problems.
Al Schmidt, Republican City Commissioner, East Falls resident:
He said he was poring over the decision when reached by NewsWorks but referenced earlier statements in saying, “It’s our job to implement the law as the courts and legislature decide.”
Asked if he expected any impact on election operations in November, Schmidt said it won’t have an effect as his office began implementing the requirements of Act 18 when it went into effect.
Chaka Fattah, U.S. representative, Democrat:
“The right to vote is our most precious right, and it trumps all others. That should be self-evident at this time in our history. But today’s ruling in Commonwealth Court places this pre-eminent right at the mercy of unreasonable burdens on our senior citizens, our college students, on minorities, on those who don’t have driver’s licenses, and those who may have been born in another state where life-cycle record-keeping is, or was, unreliable.
“The plaintiffs, who recognize all these failings, will rightly and promptly appeal. A fair hearing in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court will restore full voting rights to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians facing disenfranchisement.”
Larry Otter, election and constitutional lawyer who represented Jim Foster in his ballot fight in the U.S. congressional race vs. Fattah, legal counsel to Republican leadership in Germantown’s 59th Ward:
“The basic thrust of the law was to prevent voter fraud and there was no evidence of that. To the contrary, the state admitted at the outset of the matter that they have no cases of voter fraud, so what were they trying to prevent here? I’m just flabbergasted.”
Asked about an appeal, Otter said, “I think the Supreme Court is possibly in that mood, because they’ve decided two election cases this year that have overturned the Commonwealth Court’s prior decisions. So the Supreme Court, they’re the last word and they’re not afraid to overturn the Commonwealth Court, that’s for sure.”
Pam DeLissio, state representative (D-194):
“What was the hot hurry?” she asked, expressing particular interest in the court’s opinion in regard to the tight time frame of Act 18; she felt the eight months given to implement the provisions of the voter ID law was neither “fair nor reasonable.”
Rosita Youngblood, state representative (D-198):
“We all knew the court was going to uphold the law,” she said, pledging to continue to support appeals to higher courts and conduct voter registration and ID workshops “so we can get this done and be able to vote.”
Shirley Kitchen, state senator, Democrat:
“We all knew it was a possibility, but I was surprised because of the time element involved. Almost everybody we talked to thought that the idea of having a state approved ID, it wasn’t the worst idea in the world but it’s the implementation of this. There is not enough time. People have not been trained.
“I have a friend who lives in Villanova. … She told me that she received a flyer in the mail talking about the voter ID. Nothing like that has been mailed in Philadelphia. It is $4 million that was awarded to Pennsylvania to do voter education. We have not seen one billboard. No signs on the bus. Nothing in the bus shed. No mailings. Nothing.
“People are going to really have to double down and make sure they have what they need. At this point, it does not look like we are recieving what we are supposed to recieve and I’m saying that because there have been no visible signs or any education about this law in the city of Philadelphia. I don’t know if they plan to do it. … We know we are being targeted, but are we being targeted again?”
LeAnna Washington, state senator, Democrat:
“I am very disappointed because courts are supposed to be non-partisan and they made a very partisan decision. That goes to show you what we have to look forward to in the courts because there is no proof of fraud in Pennsylvania, so there is no reason to take that position. I hope people are not discouraged and continue doing what they need to do to get their proper identification so they can vote on Election Day.”
Anthony Hardy Williams, state senator, Democrat:
“To say I’m disappointed, even disgusted, would be a considerable understatement. The slow erosion of rights never bodes well for a society’s health, and that’s evident throughout history. And to be clear, this ruling represents an erasure of rights.
“Today, law-abiding citizens have been told that in order for them to exercise what is supposed to be their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights, they will have to spend extra money and time – then hope for the best.
“Any burden, even one instance of voter disenfranchisement, is a blemish on the Constitution that we all claim to hold dear. If one looks at the body of law, it has always been about inclusion, making sure it’s easier for people participate. This ruling effectively says that in this country, in this state, where democracy as we know it and have revered it was born, some people just don’t count.
“As an American, that’s disheartening – and disturbing.”
Vincent Hughes, state senator, Democrat:
“Based on the trend of these voter suppression laws cropping up throughout the nation, the real nature of this law is clear: Tip the odds in favor of the Republican candidate in November’s presidential election. This law is not about protecting against voter fraud. It is about the very real, systematic disenfranchisement of the poor, seniors, students and racial minorities.”
Allyson Schwartz, U.S. representative, Democrat:
“The real issue should be how to simplify access to the voting process to engage more voters to come out and cast their ballot. Instead, the Court’s decision today to enable the Governor and the State Legislature to impose greater obstacles to voting defies understanding and is un-American.”
Jennifer Austin, Pennsylvania Press Secretary, Obama for America:
“Regardless of today’s decision, we remain committed to working with supporters and volunteers across the state to register and educate Pennsylvanians about the voter ID law. We want to ensure all eligible voters have the information they need to get to the polls in November and exercise their right to vote. …
“A fair hearing in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court will restore full voting rights to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians facing disenfranchisement.”
This report was compiled by Brian Hickey, Alan Tu, Aaron Moselle, Matthew Grady, Meg Frankowski, Yasmein James and Ashira Naftali-Greer.