Pennsylvania Supreme Court Orders Lower Court to Review Effects of Voter ID Law

If Officials Can’t Ensure Voters Will Not be Harmed, the Law Will Not Go into Effect

Contact: Rich Robinson, Advancement Project at 202-728-9557, x338 or

September 18, 2012

(Philadelphia, PA) – Ruling in a challenge to Pennsylvania’s Photo ID law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today expressed concerns about the law’s impact on voters and sent the case back to the trial court to make the Commonwealth prove that it can get the required IDs into the hands of voters who need them. If Commonwealth officials cannot prove that the law won’t disenfranchise eligible voters, then it cannot go into effect, the Supreme Court ruled.

“Today’s decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a big step in the right direction for the Commonwealth’s voters,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court, stating in strong terms that the state’s restrictive voter ID must be stopped in time for the fall elections unless the lower court finds that ‘there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the ID requirement.’ The lower court must now examine the actual availability of the ID card, which we already know has been difficult for voters to get. America stands for equality, a nation where every citizen can raise their voice at the ballot box.  Pennsylvania’s restrictive voter ID law stands in the way of voters being able to exercise that right.”

This Supreme Court’s ruling tells the lower court to reconsider its decision based on actual facts, not speculation. It refused to take the state at its word that they can get enough IDs to needy voters, saying that is simply not enough. The Court ruled that a decision must be based on real facts of the law’s impact on voters.

In the appeal, brought by attorneys from Advancement Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, and the Washington, D.C. law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed evidence that the Commonwealth’s law not only imposed significant burdens on the right to vote without justification, but also that the state lacked the ability to effectively or fairly implement the law. Our attorneys presented the following claims:

• Commonwealth officials acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have the most common form of state-issued photo ID required to vote, while an independent scientific survey found that up to 1.3 million eligible Pennsylvania voters lack any form of acceptable ID.

• The Commonwealth stipulated that Pennsylvania has had zero documented cases of in-person voter fraud, the only kind of fraud that would be addressed by the law.

• Commonwealth officials admitted that it is ill-equipped to implement the law, with no process in place for issuing anywhere close to the number of voter ID cards to cover the thousands of voters who need them. Meanwhile, approximately half of Commonwealth counties have no facility to issue voter ID cards, or have a center that is only open one to two days per week.

“We’re glad to see that Pennsylvania Supreme Court is taking the actual impact on voters seriously,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Requiring the state to prove the law will not disenfranchise voters is the right step to take.  The reports from Pennsylvania already include long lines at the PennDOT offices, confusion and untrained workers giving out misinformation.  The law places an insurmountable burden on hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters and we are confident that the evidence will demonstrate widespread disenfranchisement. Elections in America should be free, fair and accessible and this law must be stopped in time for the fall elections so that every voter who wants to cast a ballot can do so.”


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