a pennsylvania judge on wednesday refused to stop a tough new voter identification law from going into effect. commonwealth court judge robert simpson said he wouldn't grant an injunction halting the law requiring voters to show valid photo identification. opponents are expected to file an appeal within a day or two to the state supreme court.
the republican-penned law has ignited a furious debate over voting rights as pennsylvania is poised to play a key role in the november 6 presidential election. republicans defend the law as necessary to protect the integrity of the election. but democrats say the law will hinder college students, elders, poor folk & historically disenfranchised (blacks, latinos, i.e.) americans from fair voting practices.
"we're not done, it's not over," said witold j. walczak, an american civil liberties union lawyer who helped argue the case for the plaintiffs. he said, "it's why they make appeals courts." simpson didn't rule on the full merits of the case, only whether to grant a preliminary injunction stopping it from taking effect.
votes by four of six supreme court justices would be needed to rescind the ruling by simpson, who is a republican. but the high court is currently split between three republicans & three democrats following the recent suspension of justice joan orie melvin, a republican who is fighting criminal corruption charges.
the state's lawyers acknowledged they are "not aware of any incidents of in person voter fraud." instead, they insisted lawmakers properly exercise their latitude to make election-related laws when they chose to require voters to show widely available forms of photo identification.
republican governor tom corbett signed the law in march; every democratic lawmaker voted against it vehemently. at issue is the requirement of all pennsylvania voters to produce a valid photo id before their ballot can be counted - a substantial change from the law it was designed to replace. that law required identification only for people voting in a polling place for the first time & it allowed non-photo documents such as bank statements or utility bills.
but some of the people who sued over the law say they will be unable ot vote because they lack the necessary documents, inlcuding a birth certificate, to get a state photo id, the most widely available of the ids valid under the law. lawyers who provided free legal representation to the plaintiffs also warned it'll be difficult for many others to get a valid photo id. they presented testimony from department of transportation license workers who appeared uninformed about these new legal requirements.
in addition, some voters won't know about the law until they get to the polls. as such, long waits will result while untrained election workers struggle to carry out a complex & unnecessary - some feel racialized - law amid the traditionally larger turnout in presidential elections, they argued.
according to folks from the attorney general's office, which defended the law, the state is planning to begin issuing a special photo id card for registered voters who are unable to get a pennsylvania department of transportation-issued id & lack any other photo id acceptable under the law, such as an active-duty military or passport id.
also, they say the state is rolling out a public relations campaign to raise awareness of the new voter laws. the department of state, which oversees elections in pennsylvania, has not produced any kind of study or survey estimating the number of people without a valid photo id required by the law.
finally, the obama administration's department of justice is looking at whether pennsylvania's oppressive new voter laws requiring photo identification complies with federal laws. monday they asked the state's top election official & a chief supporter of the law for a long list of information about it.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.