Tom Curry, NBC News, October 2, 2012
A Pennsylvania judge has blocked enforcement of the key section of a voter identification law which the state legislature enacted and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed last March, meaning that the law will not be in effect for the Nov. 6 election.
Judge Robert Simpson said that even with the streamlined procedures that state officials proposed to make it easier for voters without ID cards to obtain them, “the proposed changes are to occur about five weeks before the general election, and I question whether sufficient time now remains to attain the goal of liberal access” to ID cards.
He said, “I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time. For this reason, I accept Petitioners’ argument that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed.”
Simpson ruled that those voters who cast provisional ballots will not be required to return to their county election board within six days of the election to show proof of identification.
Simpson’s ruling means that the photo ID requirement won’t be in effect for the Nov. 6 election, but it may be in effect for future elections. His decision did not strike down the entire law; in fact he rejected efforts by those challenging to law to stop state officials from educating voters about the voter ID requirement.
Simpson also said that those challenging the law have conceded that the part of the law which requires proof of identification for absentee voting does not harm would-be voters and may be implemented.
According to a recent Franklin & Marshall poll, nearly three out of five registered Pennsylvania voters favor the photo identification requirement.
Although some Republicans had hopes this summer of making Pennsylvania competitive in the presidential race, recent polling shows GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney between 7 and 12 percentage points behind President Barack Obama in the state.
An initial assessment by Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele’s office found that 91 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters have Pennsylvania Department of Transportation issued licenses which are acceptable ID for voting.
The law also says other forms of ID are acceptable, such as military ID cards, U.S. passports, identification cards from accredited Pennsylvania colleges or universities or state senior care facilities, or other photo identification cards issued by the federal, Pennsylvania, county or municipal governments.