Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Judge Blocks Photo ID|Rule for Election Day

(CN) - Pennsylvanians need not comply with a state law requiring them to show photo ID at the polls, a judge ruled Tuesday, expressing doubt that the state could issue enough IDs in time for Election Day.

"I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time," Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court wrote. "For this reason, I accept petitioners' argument that the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed."

The state has issued 13,000 IDs purely for voting, Nick Winkler, director of public relations for Pennsylvania's Department of State, told The New York Times.

Civil rights groups argued that the law, passed in March without Democratic support, would disproportionately disenfranchise minorities and the poor, who tend to vote Democratic.

Simpson upheld the law in August, but was instructed by the state Supreme Court to determine if Pennsylvania was doing enough to ensure "liberal access" to photo ID cards for November's election.

In his 16-page ruling Tuesday, Simpson stressed that "the salient offending conduct is voter disenfranchisement," not the request to produce a photo ID, as the petitioners had argued.

"As a result, I will not restrain election officials from asking for photo ID at the polls; rather, I will enjoin enforcement of those parts of [the voter ID law] which directly result in disenfranchisement," he wrote.

This means that Pennsylvanians who fail to show a photo ID at the polls can still vote on a normal voting machine.

The law's opponents viewed the victory as limited, the Times reported, saying the ability of election officials to ask for photo ID could confuse voters.

Proponents also hailed the ruling as a victory in the long run, because the law is still on the books. Simpson did not invalidate it, they said; he merely ruled that the state wasn't able to issue IDs fast enough.

Similar legal challenges to voter ID laws -- passed by Republican-controlled legislatures -- have largely succeeded in other battleground states, including Wisconsin, Texas and South Carolina.

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