ACLU preparing to challenge newly signed Pa. Voter ID law

Jon Campisi Mar. 16, 2012, 7:40am

Less than 24 hours after the new Voter ID law passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, the American Liberties Union of Pennsylvania announced it is preparing to challenge the measure in court.

“The ACLU of Pennsylvania believes the state’s new voter ID statute is an unconstitutional law that will disenfranchise tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians,” the ACLU of PA said in a statement posted on its website. “The law will disproportionately affect older citizens, people with disabilities, racial minorities, and lower-income people.”

The ACLU said it has begun to prepare for a legal challenge and is currently looking for plaintiffs to be involved in a likely future lawsuit.

The civil liberties organization asked anyone who anticipates being unable to vote in the 2012 election because of difficulty in obtaining photo identification to call 717-238-ACLU or email

The state House passed a law Wednesday that mandates those showing up to cast votes at the ballot box show photo identification.

Those who supported the measure, mostly Republicans, said the bill was needed to help clamp down on voter fraud.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, accused their counterparts of creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, at least not in large numbers.

Those who oppose the law say it will disproportionately affect minorities, lower income earners and the elderly who are most likely to not have photo ID such as a driver’s license.

The accusation by opponents is that the law is designed to help bolster Republican votes come election time, since the aforementioned group of citizens typically vote Democrat.

Republicans have countered that nobody will be turned away at the ballot box; those who don’t yet have photo identification can cast provisional ballots that will be counted once they get their ID’s, they say.

Republicans have also said that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will be issuing state ID cards for free to anyone not already in possession of a driver’s license or other photo identification.

Regardless of these measures, those who oppose the measure stand firm in their belief that it’s unconstitutional, not to mention burdensome.

“Legislators, who live lives of privilege, think it’s easy to get an ID. It’s not,” ACLU of PA legislative director Andy Hoover said in a statement. “It can take months or even a year to get an ID, and the problems always start with the documents needed to get the ID. The birth certificate is especially difficult for some to obtain. Legislators can’t grasp this because they are out of touch with how average Pennsylvanians live their lives.”

Touching on an argument by the bill’s supporters that it’s difficult to carry on in life without a photo ID, Hoover said it’s also difficult to function in society without being literate, but “that doesn’t mean we should reinstate literacy tests.”

In the same statement, ACLU of PA executive director Reggie Shuford said it’s highly likely that some Pennsylvanians will lose the ability to vote once the law goes into effect.

Shuford said his organization is determined to see to it that the law gets struck down by the judicial branch.

“The next stop for this bad idea is in a court of law, and we are prepared to challenge it vigorously,” Shuford said in his statement. “Our legal team is currently mapping a strategy for overturning this voter suppression bill.”

Shuford said in the week after the Senate passed the bill, the ACLU of PA received phone calls and emails from citizens who are concerned that they or a loved one will lose their ability to vote because of the bill.

“We are confident that we can show how this bill will disenfranchise citizens,” Shuford said.

The bill passed the Pennsylvania Senate on March 7 by a 26-23 vote. It needed 26 votes to pass that legislative chamber.

A number of other states have passed, or are looking at passing, similar voter ID laws, according to news reports.

And some have already been, and are being challenged in court.

On March 12, a state judge in Wisconsin struck down that state’s voter ID law as unconstitutional, and Texas’s similar voter ID law is currently on hold pending judicial review.


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