In a highly anticipated ruling, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ruled the state cannot enforce its restrictive voter ID requirement until after the November presidential election.
The ruling is a qualified win for voting rights advocates. The ruling strikes two provisions of the law that would have required voters without sufficient identification to show their IDs within six days of voting or appear before the county board of elections. State poll workers will still be allowed to asked voters for photo identification, but voters who are unable to produce ID that matches the bill’s requirements will still be allowed to cast a ballot, and the state will still be allowed to educate voters about the new ID requirement.
The ruling applies only to the election this November. A trial on the merits of the law will be scheduled later in the year, said Simpson.
The next great task will be for civil rights groups to educate poll workers and citizens to prevent possible harassment at the polls and make sure the law is not wrongly enforced at the expense of voting rights.
This was Simpson’s second look at the law. He had previously refused to block the voter ID law despite his “sympathy” for those “burdened by the voter ID requirement.” Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court overturned that ruling and ordered Simpson to issue an injunction blocking the law from going into effect unless the state could prove it was providing “liberal access” to photo identification and that there would “be no voter disenfranchisement” on Election Day.
This latest ruling makes Pennsylvania the eleventh state to have either a state or federal court block a voter suppression law passed by Republicans since the 2010 election. It’s a sign our system of checks and balances is working and that the courts are doing their job to protect fundamental rights from legislative interference. But given the veracity with which Republicans have pushed these laws, and given the number of states with measures on the ballot in November, a victory like the one in Pennsylvania should simply give us a second to catch our breath and re-group, because the battle to secure voting rights for everyone is far from finished.
Photo from JasonLangheine via flickr.