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Pennsylvania judge bars ID enforcement in November election

A Pennsylvania judge approved an agreement Friday that bars enforcement of a controversial voter-identification law through the Nov. 5 general election.

Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged a GOP-backed measure requiring Pennsylvania voters to have a state-issued ID before casting a ballot.

Opponents say the law unfairly targets lower-income people or the elderly, who have been more inclined to vote Democratic.

Supporters argue the law is needed to crack down on voter fraud.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled that a ban on the law will continue until a final verdict on the ruling is reached. This is the third consecutive election in which enforcement of the law has been blocked by a court order.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett enacted the bill in March 2012.

Lawyers for the state have said the enforcement issue should be considered one election at a time -- as has been the practice since the court's first order was issued just weeks before the 2012 presidential election. Enforcement also was blocked in the May primary.

But the plaintiffs also objected to any provision allowing the state to require local election officials to ask, but not require, voters to show photo IDs and to hand out information about the law to those who did not show identification.

The voter ID law would be one of the strictest in the nation, but it has never been implemented.

After legal jousting that reached the state Supreme Court, a judge blocked enforcement in last year's presidential election and again in this year's municipal and judicial primary because of lingering concern that it could disenfranchise voters who lacked a valid photo ID.

The 2012 law was approved without any Democratic votes by the Legislature's Republican majority and signed by Corbett amid a bitterly contested White House race in which Democratic President Obama ultimately carried Pennsylvania.

Critics derided the law as a cynical GOP effort to discourage voting by young adults, minorities, the elderly, poor and disabled from going to the polls. Republicans said most Pennsylvanians have driver's licenses to use as photo ID and claimed that the law would discourage voter fraud.

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary for Corbett's Office of General Counsel, issued a statement Friday night saying, "given the extended nature of the trial, along with the expected post-trial motions and appeals, we believe it was reasonable for the court to continue a preliminary injunction until after the election in order to allow ample time to consider the merits of this case."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.