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August 15, 2012 | By | Posted in General News

BREAKING: Judge upholds ‘Voter ID’ law

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has upheld Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law.

Simpson, in the opinion released Wednesday morning, says he was convinced the state would fully comply with the law and that plaintiffs in the case did not meet the requirements to obtain the injunction they sought. (Full decision here)

During nearly two weeks of hearings on the controversial law, plaintiffs argued it was passed without adequate time for all Pennsylvanians to comply with its requirements before the November elections. They also argued the law was passed to give a partisan advantage to Republican candidates because groups more likely to vote Democratic – including minorities, women, students and the elderly – were less likely to have official state identification.

Simpson wrote that plaintiffs “did an excellent job of ‘putting a face’ to those burdened by the new requirement,” but he could not decide the case purely on sympathy for the witnesses.

When the law passed earlier this year, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett argued it was necessary to prevent voter fraud and ensure that all votes were counted equally. But lawyers for the state admitted in court filings that no instances of voter fraud —  that would be curbed by the new law — could be identified.

Instead, they primarily argued the Legislature had the right to set new requirements for voting.

The case is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

That court is split evenly — three Republicans and three Democrats — while one seat on the bench is vacant and will not be filled before the court would hear appeals in the voter ID case.

Four votes would be necessary to overturn the lower court ruling, meaning one Republican would likely have to vote against the Republican-drafted law to kill it.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, an outspoken critic of the law, issued a statement Wednesday morning calling Simpson’s decision “highly disturbing and disconcerting.”

Rob Gleason, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said he was pleased the court recognized the law for what it was — “commonsense reform to ensure that every voter and every vote is protected.”

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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