Pennsylvania judge upholds law that could ban almost half of Philadelphia from voting
Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson ruled against granting an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect. Supporters claim the strict ID law helps prevent voter fraud and keeps non-citizens from voting, but it also keeps eligible citizens without an adequate ID from casting their ballots.
In a 70-page opinion, the judge wrote that opponents of the new law “did not establish … that disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable.”
But last month, the Philadelphia City Paper found that 1,636,168 of the state’s voters might not have valid IDs to partake in the election, and almost half of Philadelphia voters might be banned from voting.
The new law requires voters, whether they have registered or not, to show IDs issued by the state’s Department of Transportation.
Other forms of ID, including federal, student IDs, and expired licenses, would be considered insufficient. Previously accepted forms of identity verification, such as utility bills or non-photo ID cards, will also be invalid at polling sites.
But in Pennsylvania, which is likely to be a key deciding state in the upcoming presidential election, leaving out a large chunk of the minority and college-aged population could severely affect the turnout.
Even though supporters of the law argue the benefits of securing each voter’s identity, court records show that not a single vote fraud case has been prosecuted or investigated in Pennsylvania before the new law went into effect. Election fraud played little role in the court case, with government lawyers acknowledging that they are “not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud.” But the judge’s ruling was influenced by lawmakers properly following the procedures of making legislation.
The American Civil Liberties Union is expected to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court.
“Given clear evidence that impersonation fraud is not a problem, we had hoped that the court would show greater concern for the hundreds of thousands of voters who will be disenfranchised by this law,” Witold Walczak, legal director of the state’s ACLU chapter, said in a statement.
While there are other ways for voters with currently ineligible IDs to partake in the election – including using provisional ballots, absentee ballots, and requesting a proper ID card before November – many Pennsylvania citizens do not know about the new law.
Unless the law is appealed and ruled against by the State Supreme Court, the new law could severely affect the elections by leaving out those without proper identification.
Many US citizens may find themselves rejected at polling booths this November.