Judge must make decision about injunction by Tuesday Oct. 2
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson did not issue a ruling Thursday, as a third hearing over the state’s controversial voter ID law wrapped up in Harrisburg. By order of the state Supreme Court, he must decide whether or not to delay implementation of the law by next Tuesday — just 35 days before Election Day.
Simpson heard testimony Tuesday and Thursday as lawyers representing voter advocates laid out the hurdles voters face as they attempt to get a state-approved ID so they can vote on November 6. State officials told Simpson they are in the process of making it easier for voters to get the ID they need. And, attorneys for the state argued that the law is necessary to deter voter fraud.
According to the Associated Press, Simpson has hinted that an injunction is possible before the presidential election.
Nevertheless, he did not issue his decision in court Thursday.
The new law requires voters to show a state-approved form of photo ID, such as a driver’s license, passport, active duty military identification, nursing home ID or college student ID.
Before its passage in March, voters were required to show identification only the first time they voted, and were allowed to use things like utility bills or bank statements.
It is the second time the case has come before Simpson, who initially denied the request for a preliminary injunction that would have delayed the law’s implementation until after the election. In that ruling, issued on August 15, Simpson said the plaintiffs did not show that “disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable.”
That decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which, earlier this month, threw the case back to Simpson. The high court ordered him to issue an injunction by Tuesday if he finds the state has not met the law’s promise of providing free and easy access to a photo ID or if he believes it will prevent any registered voters from casting a ballot.
Critics of the law charge that it will disenfranchise young, old, poor and minority voters.
Some estimates suggest that as many as one in three Philadelphians lack a state-approved ID.
One local study suggested that approximately 39 percent of active African-American voters in Philadelphia — more than 152,000 people — lack state-required photo identification needed to cast their ballots. That compares to about 82,000 — or about 20 percent — of active white voters who lack proper identification.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.