WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania’s strict new photo ID requirement, which critics said could prevent tens of thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots, will not be enforced in the November election.
A state judge blocked the new rule Tuesday after deciding state officials had failed to take steps to make sure all registered voters would be able to get the identification card they would need. “In the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed,” said Judge Robert Simpson.
At least 90,000, and as many as 758,000, of Pennsylvania’s voters did not have a current driver’s license, a U.S. passport or a military ID card that would allow them to cast a ballot, according to court testimony. Not just any photo ID will work under Pennsylvania’s law. It has to be a current government-issued photo card with an expiration date.
The decision is the latest – and perhaps most significant – in a series of court rulings that have stopped Republican-sponsored laws that tightened the requirements for voting.
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said it would not move to revive that state’s new photo ID law, a measure championed by Republicans and opposed by Democrats and civil rights advocates. State trial judges had halted that law as well.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who signed the new law in March, conceded it will not go into effect this year. “We’ll continue our efforts for the next election and all future elections, to make sure every registered voter has the proper identification in an effort to preserve the integrity of our voting process in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Four states have had strict photo ID laws in place: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee. Five others, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, had similar laws due to take effect this year, but all have now been halted.
With little fanfare, states such as Virginia and New Hampshire put new voter identification laws into effect this year – and after winning approval from the Obama administration’s Justice Department. The difference was that those states, unlike Pennsylvania, allow voters to submit one of many forms of identification. Florida and Ohio, two closely contested states, have such laws.