Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson this morning refused to issue a preliminary injunction to block the state's new Voter ID law, which will require voters to show state-approved identification at polling places during the Nov. 6 general election.
Here are 13 key take-aways from the 68-page Simpson ruling:
- Simpson describes the requirement to show state-approved identification to vote as a “minor change” to the state Election Code.
- He said any voter rejected for lack of an ID can still cast a provision ballot and then produce an approved ID within six days to have their vote counted.
- “Importantly,” Simpson said, the Voter ID law, “contains no references to any class or group. Rather, its provisions are neutral and nondiscriminatory and apply uniformly to all voters.”
- Simpson rejected a claim that voters could be harmed by being “erroneously charged a fee for a photo ID for voting.” They can get a refund later, he explained.
- Gov. Corbett and the Department of State initially said about 1 percent of voters did not have an approved state ID. The Department of State later said that number was closer to 9 percent. Simpson guesses the number is “somewhat more than 1 percent and significantly less than 9 percent,” Based on testimony of the Department of State’s director of policy. Simpson also said he rejected “attempts to inflate the numbers in various ways.”
- Simpson compared objections to the Voter ID law to a legal action taken in 2008 by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, which sought to curtail the voter registration efforts of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, also known as ACORN. Simpson ruled in October 2008 that the Republican Party would not be able to prove that ACORN was engaged in voter fraud.
- Simpson, in the ACORN comparison, said he is convinced the Voter ID law “will be implemented by Commonwealth agencies in a non-partisan, even-handed manner.”
- Simpson said a Department of State plan for a special identification for voting, still being developed, will prevent voters from being disenfranchised.
- Simpson took into account the “alarm, concern and anxiety” shown by the state’s commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation of the impact a preliminary injunction on the Voter ID law would have on preparing for the Nov. 6 general election. “His demeanor tells the story,” Simpson wrote.
- Simpson cites an April 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, rejecting a constitutional challenge to a Voter ID law in Indiana.
- In citing that case, Simpson notes that Department of State here acknowledged having no proof of in-person voter fraud occurring in Pennsylvania. “Nevertheless…The United States Supreme Court upheld a nearly identical Indiana voter ID law despite the absence of any evidence of in-person voter fraud occurring in that state.”
- Simpson denounced “disturbing, tendentious statements by House Majority Leader Michael Turzai to a Republican Party gathering” – In June Turzai said the law would help former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney defeat President Obama in the presidential election – but declared that a legislator’s partisan interest in voting for a law does not make that law discriminatory. “Factually, I decline to infer that other members of the General Assembly shared the boastful views of Rep. Turzai without proof that other members were present at the time the statements were made,” Simpson wrote.
- Simpson wrote that the Voter ID law challengers “did an excellent job of ‘putting a face” to those burdened by the law but that he does not have the “luxury of deciding the issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses.”