Voter ID: Applewhite v. Commonwealth


Partial Preliminary Injunction Granted; No Disenfranchisement on November 6th!

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has granted a partial preliminary injunction in the Voter ID case, leaving the law in place but delaying its implementation so that no one is disenfranchised on Election Day. Under the Judge’s ruling, people will still be asked for identification at the polls, but if they do not have ID, they will still be allowed to vote.

Judge Simpson found that given the short time frame and problems with implementation, the new Department of State ID cards do not comport with the “liberal access” requirements of the law. As a result of the large number of people who still need ID, Judge Simpson also stated that he is “not convinced… that there will be no disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election.”

Writing that the “offending conduct” is not the act of asking for photo identification itself, but rather, disenfranchising voters who do not have ID, Judge Simpson denied our request to enjoin the law and all education efforts entirely. Instead, he enjoined only the part of the law which he finds creates disenfrachisement: forcing voters who do not have ID to cast provisional ballots and then appear before the county board of elections within six days with the proper ID.

Judge Simpson has thus ordered that the “soft roll out” of the law used during the primary election, in which voters were asked for – but not required to present- ID in order to vote, be continued. While the court’s ruling protects the fundamental right to vote, we remain concerned that he has allowed the Commonwealth to continue their education campaign. That campaign, which tells people they need ID to vote, could confuse voters and keep them from the polls. We call on the Secretary of State and our Voter ID Coalition partners to make every effort to let voters know that they will NOT be disenfranchised and that they CAN vote even if they don’t have an ID.

The decision is a tremendous victory for the tens of thousands of active, engaged citizens who stood to be denied their Constitutional right to vote by this law. We thank our partners at the ACLU of PA, the Advancement Project and Arnold & Porter for their outstanding work, and you for your ongoing support.