Pennsylvania Has Until Oct. 30 for Voter-ID Case Response

A Pennsylvania judge gave state officials until Oct. 30 to respond to calls to make clear that residents don’t need to show photo identification to vote on Nov. 6, according to court filings.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson yesterday set the deadline for the state’s lawyers to file a response to requests by advocacy groups, including the League of Women Voters and the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People, for state officials to clear up potential confusion about the photo-identification requirement. Attorneys for the advocacy groups asked Simpson to move up the deadline to Oct. 25, according to court filings.

“If the court waits until next week to rule, even a ruling granting the request will come too late to make a difference,” Sara Mullen, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an e-mailed statement. The ACLU’s lawyers are representing the advocacy groups.

Pennsylvania is the third state, following Texas and Wisconsin, where courts have rejected voter-ID laws passed by Republican-dominated legislatures since 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 be more inclined to vote for Democrats.

Logistically Impossible

On Oct. 2, Simpson barred Pennsylvania from enforcing the voter-identification requirement. He said it was logistically impossible for the state to make IDs available to everyone who needed one. Simpson issued that ruling after his initial approval of the law was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court.

Ron Ruman, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele, said the commonwealth’s lawyers will respond to the advocacy groups’ request by the deadline.

“We will continue to make clear that we think we have been following the judge’s ruling all along,” Ruman said in a telephone interview.

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.

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

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