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Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Upheld, Adding Uncertainly To Fall Vote

 
 
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Efforts by voting rights groups to block Pennslyvania's new voter ID law were rejected by a state appeals court on Wednesday, complicating the voting process in November in the presidential swing state.

The civil rights groups led by the state's ACLU chapter had argued that the law puts up unconstitutional barriers to the fundamental right to vote and threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people without valid ID.

A top Republican senator was caught on camera saying the law was intended to help Romney win the state, as many people lacking state photo ID are seen as likely Democrats--people without driver's licenses living in Philadelphia, students, elderly seniors and people with disablities.

The state did not put on a defense other than saying the Legislature has the authority to pass whatever laws it wants. In contrast, the colaition of civil rights groups put on what was seen as a very strong case. (In Wisconsin, a state judge blocked its new ID law).

The civil groups plan to appeal the judge’s decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, although that court has three Republicans and three Democrats on it--leading legal scholars to observe that it will deadlock and the lower court ruling will stand.

I just can’t believe it,” said Viviette Applewhite, the 93-year-old lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Too many people have fought for the right to vote to have it taken away like this. All I want is to be able to vote this November like I always have. This law is just ridiculous.”
 
During the recent seven-day trial, lawyers for the petitioners established that in person voter fraud is exceedingly rare, hundreds of thousands of voters are at risk of being disenfranchised if the law stays in place, and the commonwealth is woefully unprepared to ensure that every voter who needs ID will get one before Election Day.  The new Department of State “for voting only” ID is not yet available and not every voter will qualify for one. Prior to the trial, the commonwealth stipulated that it knows of no in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Supporters of the law claimed that the law was necessary to stop voter fraud.
 
A copy of the decision can be found here: http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/DenialofPI.pdf

A more detailed early analysis can be found at Rick Hasen's ElectionLaw blog.

 

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at August 15, 2012, 9:52am

 
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