Pennsylvania Record

Friday, November 15, 2019

ACLU appeals Pa. judge's ruling upholding Voter ID law to state Supreme Court

By Jon Campisi | Aug 21, 2012

Commonwealth court judge robert e. simpson jr.1

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs challenging Pennsylvania’s controversial new Voter

ID law filed an appeal late last week of a state judge’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the legislation.

News reports and social media postings by plaintiffs’ attorneys show the civil rights coalition challenging the measure filed the appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Aug. 16.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and other area civil rights attorneys contend the law disproportionately affects minorities, the elderly and poor people, a segment of the population that typically tends to vote Democratic.

Opponents liken voter ID laws to poll taxes under the Jim Crow south.

The backers of Pennsylvania’s GOP-pushed law say it’s merely designed to clamp down on incidents of voter fraud.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson refused last week to grant a preliminary injunction barring the law from taking effect, writing in a 70-page opinion that the law, which requires all voters to show photo identification prior to casting ballots, on its face appears constitutional.

Simpson, in his ruling, took care to laboriously describe the differences between “facial” challenges and “as applied” challenges, the former addressing the constitutionality of an entire law and the latter referring to when certain people are deprived of a constitutional right under certain circumstances because of a law.

In this case, Simpson determined that the Voter ID law, also known as Act 18, passes constitutional muster, although he wrote that he also has sympathy for the plaintiffs in the case.

Simpson said as the litigation progresses, he believes the law will prevail on a facial challenge.

The Associated Press reported that the plaintiffs’ attorneys are seeking a speedy review of the appeal given that the general election is mere months away.

The high court, which will address the law’s merits on appeal, is currently down a member with the pending criminal trial of Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who is facing charges that she used staff and state resources for campaign purposes.

If the Supreme Court splits on the voter ID appeal, the lower court ruling will stand.

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