A preliminary injunction on the Pennsylvania voter identification law was ordered by Judge Robert Simpson on Tuesday, Oct. 2, allowing voters without proper photo identification to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
In his ruling, Simpson wrote, “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.” Simpson further estimated that between 1 and 9 percent of voters did not have proper forms of ID.
The injunction postpones the implementation of the law, Act 18 of the Pennsylvania Election Code, until after the November elections.
Further review will occur on Dec. 13, during a Status Review with Counsel Conference.
“[A Status Review Conference] is a meeting among attorneys. Its purpose is not so much to decide anything, as it is to lay the groundwork for how that decision will be reached,” said Mark Rahdert, the Charles Klein professor of law and government at the Beasley School of Law.
Temple issued new Owl Cards at the beginning of the semester that came with an expiration date for students, allowing the IDs to be used as valid forms of photo identification in Pennsylvania.
“Temple, all of us have the IDs, so it would not have been an issue at all,” said Erik Jacobs, a senior political science major and chairman of Temple University College Republicans. He added that TUCR is “vehemently opposed to the injunction.”
Dylan Morpurgo, a junior political science major and president of Temple College Democrats, said that while Owl Cards cover Temple students in terms of voter ID, the injunction has a much larger impact on local residents.
“For the surrounding community, this is a big win. This is a win for civic involvement and voting rights,” Morpurgo said. “The North Philadelphia community is one of the communities most drastically impacted by this law.”
According to a July press release by the Pennsylvania Department of State, 91 percent of registered voters in the state also had a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ID number. Of the reported 758,939 voters without state ID, 167,566 were labeled as inactive voters, “most whom have not voted since 2007.” In Philadelphia, 186,830 registered voters were without ID. 50,648 were inactive.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been taking steps to assure people without ID could obtain one, including waiving the $13.50 fee for an identification card for those who signed a form saying they had no other form of voter ID, according to the PennDOT website.
Had the injunction not been passed, voters without photo identification would have been able to cast preliminary ballots that would have been counted upon showing proof of identification following the election.
Following the December Status Review Conference, another trial will be set to determine whether a permanent injunction will be passed.
“I think in the long term the voter identification law will be upheld,” Rahdert said, citing that the United States Supreme Court has upheld similar voter identification laws in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board.
“The challenge will be for the state to provide a means of photo identification that is both easily obtained and at minimal or no cost to all individuals who are entitled to vote,” Rahdert said. “I don’t think that the current law, in my judgment at least, meets that standard, but I think that there can be changes to the law that will satisfy that standard, particularly if adequate time is given for all individuals to determine both for their additional photo identification and then for obtaining it.”
John Moritz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.