A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday blocked the most controversial provision of the state’s voter ID law, which will undoubtedly influence voter turnout in the 2012 election. Exactly five weeks before the election, Judge Robert Simpson halted — for this election only — a provision that would have required all voters to show a government ID at the voting booth.
Poll workers will still be required to ask voters if they have a valid ID. But if they don’t have one, they can still vote as usual. Simpson, in effect, struck down the portion that would have made Pennsylvania voters cast “provisional” ballots if they couldn’t provide ID at the voting booth. But if they couldn’t provide ID within six days after casting a provisional ballot, those votes would be impermissible.
Here are the key parts of Simpson’s decision. He basically says he’s worried the new law would disenfranchise voters:
The language of disenfranchisement is found in the part of the Election Code dealing with provisional ballots: “A provisional ballot shall not be counted if ….” This language pre-existed Act 18, but Act 18 added two new circumstances when a provisional vote will not be counted. Both of these new circumstances relate to electors who are unable to produce proof of identification. … Thus, disenfranchisement expressly occurs during the provisional ballot part of the in-person voting process, which is addressed in subsections (a.2) and (a.4) of Section 1210. It is this part of the process which must be enjoined to prevent disenfranchisement. […]
Consistent with this expressed intent, and consistent with principles of severability, I will enjoin enforcement of those provisions of Act 18 which amend the provisional ballot procedures of the Election Code and cause disenfranchisement based on failure to present photo ID for in-person voting. The injunction will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of Act 18 through the general election.
The ruling is expected to increase turnout in the upcoming election, which will likely disproportionately benefit President Barack Obama.
Pennsylvania’s voter ID law had passed the Pennsylvania legislature without a Democratic vote, and its critics charged that its intent was to suppress the vote of Democratic-heavy demographics. Proponents said its purpose was to stop voter fraud, but the state said before the trial that it did not have evidence of any in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
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