Pa. Judge: Photo ID Law ‘Reasonable,’ ‘Non-Discriminatory'

By Matt Cover | August 15, 2012 | 5:33pm EDT

FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2012 file photo, election officials check the photo identification card of a voter in Cimarron, Kan. Voter ID laws designed to deter fraud may end up blocking thousands of legitimate ballots. As more states put in place strict voter ID rules, an AP review of temporary ballots from Indiana and Georgia, which first adopted the most stringent standards, found that more than 1,200 such votes were tossed during the 2008 general election. (AP Photo/The The Hutchinson News, Travis Morisse, File)

( A Pennsylvania judge refused to block a state law requiring that voters present identification to vote, declaring that the law was “reasonable” and “non-discriminatory”  and adding that the law’s liberal challengers were unlikely to prevail in the case.

“[T]he photo ID requirement of Act 18 is reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden when viewed in the broader context of widespread use of photo ID in daily life,” Judge Robert Simpson wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

Opponents of the law had asked Simpson to block its implementation before the November elections, arguing that requiring people to obtain photo IDs would effectively deny them their right to vote.

Simpson openly scoffed at this argument, saying that sitting for a free photograph was not a severe burden on anyone’s right to vote.

“[T]he inconvenience of going to PennDOT [Pennsylvania Department of Transportation], gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on the vast supermajority of registered voters,” he said.

The ruling comes after a July 25 hearing where opponents of the law presented a string of witnesses who claimed they would be disenfranchised because they did not have photo ID. Simpson acknowledged that opponents “did an excellent job of ‘putting a face’ to those burdened by the voter ID requirement” but ultimately said that their case was unlikely to succeed.

“I am not convinced any of the individual Petitioners [opponents of the law] or other witnesses will not have their votes counted in the general election,” he said.

At issue is a new Pennsylvania law that requires photo ID for in-person voting and some kind of official proof of identification for absentee voting. Opponents charged that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians lacked such identification and would thus be denied the right to vote.

Simpson did not decide the merits of the case, merely ruling that he would not stop the law from being implemented. However, he leaned heavily on Supreme Court precedent in saying that opponents’ constitutional arguments did not pass muster.

Citing the Supreme Court’s upholding of a similar law in Indiana in 2008, Simpson noted that voter ID laws had been ruled constitutional before, saying that it appeared there would be little reason to rule the Pennsylvania statute unconstitutional.

“I reach the same conclusions the United States Supreme Court reached,” Simpson said. “The Commonwealth’s asserted interest in protecting public confidence in elections is a relevant and legitimate state interest sufficiently weighty to justify the burden [of producing ID].”

MRC Store