Pennsylvania Judge Declines to Intervene in Voter-ID Case

The Pennsylvania judge who barred the state from enforcing a Republican-backed requirement for voter photo-identification in the coming election declined a request that he clear up confusion about the status of the law.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson in Harrisburg ruled Oct. 2 that while election officials can request an ID on Election Day, voters without one can cast ballots that will be counted. Today, he rejected a request that he review or supervise the state’s compliance after advocacy groups complained that the state Department of Aging is falsely informing voters that they must have an ID to vote.

Simpson said he “considered and expressly rejected” giving himself an oversight role a month ago and said in a written opinion today that he stands by that decision.

Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in court filings that state officials haven’t properly tailored voter-education efforts to conform with Simpson’s Oct. 2 ruling.

Pennsylvania is one of nine states that passed laws requiring voters to show a state-issued ID before casting a ballot. Seventeen states passed laws requiring voters to present some kind of photo ID. Just two states adopted voter-ID laws before 2008.

Laws Rejected

Courts in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin have rejected voter-ID laws passed by Republican-dominated legislatures since Democrat President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory.

Supporters of the laws say they’re needed to prevent voter fraud. Opponents contend the measures are aimed at suppressing voting by low-income people and the elderly, who may vote for Democrats.

“We’re not surprised” with the ruling so close to the election, Vic Walczak, a spokesman for the ACLU in Pittsburgh, said in a phone interview. “There are going to be an awful lot of confused voters.”

“We’re pleased he denied the request,” Ronald Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said in a voice-mail message.

The case is Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 330-md-2012, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).

To contact the reporters on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at spearson3@bloomberg.net; Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at pmilford@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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