Applewhite et al., v. Commonwealth

In May 2012, Advancement Project, along with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and pro bono counsel Arnold and Porter, filed suit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court alleging that Pennsylvania’s photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of the right to vote and simultaneously filed a motion for preliminary injunction.  Plaintiffs include affected individuals as well as the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Homeless Advocacy Project.  After two hearings and an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2012, plaintiffs obtained an injunction halting implementation of the law at the polls for the 2012 election. 

In July 2013, Advancement Project and co-counsel tried the case on the merits before Judge Bernard J. McGinley in Commonwealth Court and moved to extend the preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs’ evidence at trial showed not only that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters lack a state-issued ID, but that voters of color were more likely than white voters to not to have a state-issued identification.  Moreover, many of those who lacked ID were unable to travel to one of the limited number of drivers’ license centers to obtain an ID.  Plaintiffs presented evidence that the Commonwealth had failed to educate voters about the law and that its advertising campaign was inadequate, misleading and inaccurate.  In August 2013, the Commonwealth Court extended the preliminary injunction indefinitely until the conclusion of its proceedings. The parties expect a decision on the merits in early 2014.

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