Pa. judge extends 'Voter ID' law injunction through November municipal election

By Jon Campisi | Aug 19, 2013

A state judge has agreed to once again extend the injunction barring

Pennsylvania’s controversial Voter ID law from being enforced in the upcoming November municipal election.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley last week ruled to keep the preliminary injunction in place until he could fully decide the merits of the case.

Lawyers from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights attorneys are suing the state seeking to overturn Act 18, more commonly referred to as the “Voter ID” law, arguing that it disproportionately affects minorities, the poor and elderly citizens.

Republicans who pushed the measure contend it was needed to help clamp down on instances of voter fraud; opponents, mostly Democrats, maintain the legislation was passed as a voter suppression tactic.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson previously issued a temporary injunction preventing the law from taking immediate effect.

He later extended the injunction to include the November 2012 presidential election and this past spring’s primary.

After a recent two-week trial in Harrisburg, McGinley decided to keep the injunction in place, meaning voters will need not show poll workers photo identification come November.

McGinley’s recent ruling goes further, however, and enjoins poll workers from informing those who show up to cast ballots about the anticipated need to show ID during future elections.

Simpson’s temporary injunction said only that voters didn’t need to show photo ID cards; poll workers were still able to tell folks they would need to show identification in subsequent elections.

In his 13-page ruling, filed on Aug. 16, McGinley wrote that given the timeframe under which the court has to address the merits of the case, both those challenging the law and the commonwealth have agreed to keep the preliminary injunction in place through the November election.

McGinley wrote that while the evidentiary record hasn’t changed, “the prior injunctions did not stop time,” something that the court is grappling with as the next scheduled election fast approaches.

“Certainly, it is preferable for all involved to devote our collective attention to the primary case on the merits and resolve the preliminary injunction issue with some finality,” McGinley wrote. “In an abundance of caution, the Court takes this opportunity to save all participants from expending additional resources caused by addressing this issue on an election-by-election basis.”

McGinley went on to write that keeping a preliminary injunction in place until a final decision is rendered on the request for a permanent injunction “makes sense now that the trial on the merits is completed.”

“This will allow the parties and this Court to address the permanent injunction without distraction or distress from impending elections,” McGinley wrote.

As for his decision to prohibit poll workers from telling voters in November that they would need to produce identification during future elections, McGinley wrote that the court doesn’t deem inaccurate information as “educational.”

“This Court and election officials have a duty to provide correct information at the polls to qualified electors who exercise their vested right to vote,” the judge wrote. “Regardless of whether a request for photo ID causes confusion, telling a qualified elector that he or she will not have the right to vote in future elections if he or she does not obtain compliant photo ID, when that information has been erroneous at best, deceptive at worst, will not be continued. Not when this Court has witnessed two prior injunctions where the information, in effect, misled qualified electors.”

During the trial in Harrisburg, some plaintiffs and witnesses reportedly told the court that they would have effectively been prevented from voting in recent contests because they would not have been able to have obtained the required forms of identification in time.

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