A Pennsylvania trial court upheld the state’s new voter ID law today but ordered that voters without ID would still be able to vote in the upcoming election, because it does not appear that the new requirement can be fully implemented before the election.
The court questioned “whether sufficient time now remains” to implement the changes proposed by the state to make it easier for voters who don’t already have a photo ID to obtain one.
The court issued only a very narrow injunction—contrary to the demands of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. Pennsylvania election officials can still ask voters to present photo IDs at the polls. However, as the court pointed out, when the state legislature passed the new voter ID law, it specifically provided that the requirement “was to operate during its initial implementation” in what the court described as a “soft run.”
Therefore, following the “expressed intent” of the legislature, the court held that voters without IDs would still be able to vote in the November election, and they would not be limited to casting a provisional ballot rather than a regular ballot.
The court issued no permanent injunction—its order is limited to this election. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court remanded this case to the trial court on September 13 for further hearings on the new law, the Supreme Court specifically noted that the plaintiffs had “acknowledged that there is no constitutional impediment to the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement.” The only issue remanded was whether the law could be implemented by November 6 without disenfranchising any voters.
While this may seem to be a win for opponents of common-sense election reform efforts like voter ID, it is actually a loss. Pennsylvania was handicapped in implementing its new law by the shortness of time remaining before the election. The court simply found that the state could not effectively implement the ID requirement in only a month. The law is still in place and remains valid.
It seems doubtful that the plaintiffs will be able to convince the Pennsylvania courts to ultimately hold the law unconstitutional or prevent its implementation in future elections.