Judge keeps Pennsylvania voter ID law alive
Ed Farnsworth places a sticker on his jacket after casting his ballot during the Republican primary election April 24, 2012, at Northern Liberties Neighbors Association in Philadelphia. / Getty Images
Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET
(CBS News) In a decision that could bear a direct impact on the presidential race, a state judge Wednesday upheld Pennsylvania's new photo ID law, which would require all registered voters to produce a state-issued or state-sanctioned photo ID at the polls in order to be able to cast a ballot this November.
Contrary to arguments brought by opponents of the new law, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, in Harrisburg, Pa., said he did not believe that "disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable."
In a 68-page decision, Simpson
The court challenge to the new law was brought by a group of plaintiffs who alleged the new law was an unfair burden and that the cost in dollars and time to acquire the documents to get the photo ID were akin to an unconstitutional poll tax.
The lead plaintiff was Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old Philadelphian who has never had a driver's license.
Applewhite has been voting since the 1940s, but her Social Security card will no longer be adequate proof of ID, and her birth certificate is not in her legal name.
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By the best prior estimate of Pennsylvania officials, several hundred thousand registered voters don't have an acceptable photo ID, such as a driver's license. The Pennsylvania Department of State announced last month that nearly 759,000 registered voters, or 9 percent, lacked a driver's license or state-issued ID. However, the state also said 22 percent of those voters, or 167,000, were considered inactive voters for not having voted in at least five years and were presumed to have left the state.
Department of State Spokesman Ron Ruman told CBS News that many of the 759,000 people were eligible to vote but their names were spelled differently in the voter registration and motor vehicle records - a discrepancy, he said, poll workers would be told to ignore. Many other registered voters could pass the state's photo ID requirement with IDs issued by a colleges, the military, government employers or even nursing homes, he said.
"I am pleased Judge Simpson affirmed the constitutionality of the voter ID law. This law will reinforce the principle of one person, one vote. By giving us a reliable way to verify the identity of each voter, the voter ID law will enhance confidence in our elections," Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, said in a written statement. "We will continue our outreach efforts to make sure all legal Pennsylvania voters know about the law, and know how to get a free ID to vote if needed." Pennsylvania is one of 10 states to adopt a photo voter ID law in the past two years. Pennsylvania's law permits a registered voter lacking an acceptable or government-issued photo ID to cast a provisional ballot, a provision Simpson cited as important in his decision. P
rovisional ballots in Pennsylvania will be counted after Election Day only if the voter subsequently proves his or her identity within six days to county election officials with an acceptable photo ID.
"No one will be denied the right to vote," said Shannon Royer, the Pennsylvania's deputy secretary of state. The state has launched a $5 million outreach effort, including an ad campaign, to educate voters about the law.
Royer told CBS News that voters can now obtain a free state photo ID on the same day from any of more than 70 Department of Transportation offices around the state. The state has issued 4,200 such IDs since the law passed in March, Royer said. He also said a birth certificate will no longer be necessary and election officials would accept
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