Oct. 2, 2012
Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett and Secretary of State Carol Aichele issued the following statements today in response to Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson’s decision on the Voter ID law:
“We are pleased with Judge Simpson’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the voter ID law,’’ Corbett said. “While we believe we have made it possible for every registered voter who needs voter identification to obtain one, we’ll continue our efforts for the next election and all future elections, to make sure every registered voter has the proper identification in an effort to preserve the integrity of our voting process in Pennsylvania.”
Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, said:
“The streamlined process put in place by the Corbett Administration to help all voters get IDs would have allowed all voters to have acceptable ID by November. However, the judge has concerns about this, and thus the same procedure will be in effect for this election as for the spring primary, in that voters will be requested to show ID, but ID will not be required to vote.
“We will continue our education and outreach efforts, as directed by the judge in his order, to let Pennsylvanians know the voter ID law is still on track to be fully implemented for future elections, and we urge all registered voters to make sure they have acceptable ID.
“This law is designed to preserve the integrity of every vote by doing what we can to make sure each voter is who they claim to be at the polls, and we are confident this law will be fully implemented in future elections.’’
For more information, visit www.pa.gov.
Kevin Harley, Governor’s Office
Ron Ruman, Dept. of State
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2012
(Harrisburg, PA) – In a decision protecting the rights of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania today issued a preliminary injunction against the state’s voter ID law. Reversing his earlier ruling, Judge Robert Simpson said that Pennsylvania officials failed to show that they could make ID cards easily available to voters in time for this November’s elections. The decision guarantees that strict photo identification requirements will not be in place for voters participating in November’s general elections.
“We are very glad voters will not be turned away from the polls this November if they do not have a photo ID,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “The evidence made it clear to the judge that this law would indeed disenfranchise voters and that the Commonwealth was not equipped to implement it fairly.”
In the case, 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 Commonwealth Court reviewed new evidence that the state’s law not only imposed significant burdens on the right to vote without justification, but also that the state lacked the capacity to effectively or fairly implement the law. Our attorneys presented the following claims:
The court found this evidence compelling. "I cannot conclude the [Commonwealth's] proposed changes [in issuance of ID's] cure the deficiency in liberal access identified by the Supreme Court," Judge Simpson wrote in his ruling, concluding, “in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed.” The court ruled that the Commonwealth may continue it’s “slow rollout” process for the photo ID law; while poll workers may ask voters for ID this November, they can’t turn away voters who don’t have one.
“While we’re happy that voters in Pennsylvania will not be turned away if they do not have an ID, we are concerned that the ruling will allow election workers to ask for ID at the polls and this could cause confusion,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy. We urge the Commonwealth to do everything within its power to ensure that voters are informed that an ID is not necessary this November 6th, and most importantly, that poll workers are properly trained to ensure that every citizen votes a regular ballot that is counted, whether or not they have ID.”
The case will continue, with plans for a trial on the law at some point in the future.
Elections are serious events, with lasting consequences for working families. That’s why it’s so important that our laws be written and applied in a way that makes it possible for as many people as possible to cast ballots.
Voter ID laws like Pennsylvania’s work in the opposite direction, disenfranchising voters and making it harder for people to participate in elections. These and other measures to restrict voting are cynical and wrong, and they undermine our democracy.
We are pleased that Judge Simpson enjoined the voter ID law so Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show photo ID at the polls on Election Day. With this roadblock to voting removed, all eligible Pennsylvanians will be able to exercise their right to vote.
We remain concerned that the judge is allowing the state to continue to publicize and promote voter ID. This is going to cause unnecessary confusion leading up to and on Election Day. We urge the state to make sure Pennsylvania voters know that they will NOT be denied the right to vote on Election Day if they lack a photo ID.Contact: Amaya Tune
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2012
Contact: Ayofemi Kirby
CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver’s Statement on Pennsylvania Court’s Voter ID Ruling
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver released the following statement today after Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania partially blocked and delayed full implementation of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law:
“Today brought another victory for those committed to protecting the right to vote for all Americans. Pennsylvania now joins Texas, Ohio and other states across the country in recognizing that requiring citizens to obtain a voter ID places an undue and excessive burden on eligible voters, mostly from minority communities, that is difficult to overcome.
“While we should be implementing policies that remove obstacles to greater participation in our democracy, these proposed voter ID laws created additional ones. I am pleased Judge Simpson blocked the provision that would have required Pennsylvania voters to show an ID at the polls and I look forward to full resignation of the proposed law.
“I would also like to commend the people of Pennsylvania who, in spite of the difficulties reported, waited hours at local DMVs to complete the documents required to ensure they will be prepared vote this fall. Their commitment to exercising their right in the face of efforts to take it away is a testament to the plight of Americans who came before them, bled and died so no one would be turned away at the polls.
“The Congressional Black Caucus remains opposed to any effort in this country that suppresses its voters and that disenfranchises its citizens. We applaud today’s decision and will continue our vocal disapproval of these discriminatory and unjust laws.”
PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald was joined today by Dennis Biondo, Director of the John J. Kane Regional Centers, and Dr. Alex Johnson, President of the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), in an announcement that the Kane Regional Centers and CCAC will begin to issue photo identification for the purpose of voting.
“I firmly believe that anyone who wants to participate in our democracy through elections should have every opportunity to do so. That is what we are doing today,” said Fitzgerald. “Through our Kane Regional Centers and CCAC, we are going to provide the ability for people to get the photo identification that they need to cast their ballot this November.”
Act 18, which has been termed the Voter ID Act, provides that voters must show proof of identification in order to be allowed to cast a ballot. The identification must include a photo of the person (except in very limited circumstances), show a name that substantially conforms to the name on the voter rolls, include an expiration date and not be expired, and be issued by a delineated list of entities. That list includes a Pennsylvania care facility and an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.
“CCAC is working with Allegheny County to provide these non-student IDs to county residents to ensure that they are fully able to exercise their right to vote this November,” said Johnson. “It is our hope that these measures will help to preserve access to this cornerstone of democracy.”
Although the Kane Regional Centers and CCAC are finalizing details of when and where these IDs will be offered, both organizations indicated that an individual seeking an ID will need to be registered to vote and must also show another form of identification. The acceptable forms are those that were allowable under prior state law as proof of identification for first time voters and include non-photo identification issued by the Commonwealth, non-photo identification issued by the United States government, a firearm permit, a current utility bill, a current bank statement, a paycheck or a government check. The identification issued by the Kane Regional Centers and CCAC will include a photo of the person, a name and an expiration date.
“I am hopeful that Commonwealth Court, given a second opportunity, will issue an injunction to allow registered voters to exercise their right this November without burdens. The prior system provides for people to identify themselves when they first go to vote, and as the Commonwealth has even stipulated, there is no evidence of that type of voter fraud occurring,” said Fitzgerald. “The Voter ID law puts additional hoops in place to make it difficult to vote. The restrictions are overly burdensome, particularly for seniors and people that don’t have the means to get the necessary documentation. While we wait for the Court’s decision, we are following the statute and are going to provide the ability for people to get photo IDs to vote.”
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Aug. 15, 2012
Governor Corbett, Secretary of Commonwealth Respond to Voter ID Ruling
Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today issued the following response to the Commonwealth Court ruling on voter identification:
“Now that the court has upheld the constitutionality of the law, we can continue to focus our attention on ensuring that every Pennsylvania citizen who wants to vote has the identification necessary to make sure their vote counts.’’
Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, also issued a statement:
“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.
“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.”
For more information, visit www.votesPA.com.
Janet Kelley, Governor’s Office
Ron Ruman, Dept. of State
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2012
PENNSYVLANIA - A Pennsylvania judge rejected a challenge to the state's controversial new voter ID law today. Lawyers for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), the Advancement Project, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the Washington, DC, law firm of Arnold & Porter, had argued that the law puts up unconstitutional barriers to the fundamental right to vote and threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people without valid ID. The groups plan to appeal the judge's decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
"I just can't believe it," said Viviette Applewhite, the 93-year-old lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. "Too many people have fought for the right to vote to have it taken away like this. All I want is to be able to vote this November like I always have. This law is just ridiculous."
During the recent seven-day trial, lawyers for the petitioners established that in person voter fraud is exceedingly rare, hundreds of thousands of voters are at risk of being disenfranchised if the law stays in place, and the commonwealth is woefully unprepared to ensure that every voter who needs ID will get one before Election Day. The new Department of State "for voting only" ID is not yet available and not every voter will qualify for one. Prior to the trial, the commonwealth stipulated that it knows of no in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Supporters of the law claimed that the law was necessary to stop voter fraud.
The following statement can be attributed to Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director, ACLU of Pennsylvania:
"Given clear evidence that impersonation fraud is not a problem, we had hoped that the court would show greater concern for the hundreds of thousands of voters who will be disenfranchised by this law."
The following statement can be attributed to Jennifer Clarke, executive director, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP):
"The determined men and women who came to court to describe their love of this country because we can all participate through the ballot box, will simply have to wait for another day and another court to vindicate this most cherished of all rights."
The following statement can be attributed to David Gersch, Arnold & Porter:
'We are disappointed but will seek to appeal. At trial, we demonstrated that there are about a million registered voters who lack the ID necessary to vote under Pennsylvania's photo ID law. If the court's decision stands, a lot of those people will not be able to vote in November."
The following statement can be attributed to Penda Hair, co-director, Advancement Project:
"This is a huge setback for the right to vote. It's contrary to core American values and sadly takes us back to a dark place in our country's history. We hope the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will see through this and affirm that all Pennsylvania voters have a right to be heard at the ballot box."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2012
HARRISBURG, PA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), and the Washington, DC law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP filed a lawsuit today on behalf of ten Pennsylvania voters and three prominent advocacy organizations, alleging that the state's voter photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution by depriving citizens of their most fundamental constitutional right - the right to vote. The plaintiffs are asking the Commonwealth Court to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of the law before November's election. If the law is not overturned, most of the plaintiffs will be unable to cast ballots in the fall, despite the fact that many of them have voted regularly for decades.
The lead petitioner in the lawsuit is Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old African-American great-great grandmother and resident of Philadelphia who marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but cannot get an ID needed to vote under the law. Other petitioners include Philadelphia residents Wilola Shinholster Lee, Gloria Cuttino, and Dorothy Barksdale, all African-American women born in the Jim Crow South who, like so many of their generation, were never issued a birth certificate they now need to get an ID in order to vote under the law; Nadine Marsh, a Beaver County grandmother; and Grover Freeland, a Philadelphia-area retired veteran, whose veteran's ID card will not be acceptable to allow him to cast a ballot. If the voter photo ID law is not struck down, none of them will be able to vote in November - despite the fact that many of them have been voting for decades.
"The commonwealth's phantom claims of in-person-voter fraud cannot be allowed to trump the very real disenfranchisement of long-time Pennsylvania voters," said Witold Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania's legal director and one of the lawyers bringing the lawsuit. "People need to wake up to the reality that not every voter has or can get photo ID, so making it a requirement will prevent many people from exercising one of our most precious rights."
Under the state's voter ID law, signed by Gov. Thomas Corbett on March 14, 2012, voters casting ballots in person will be required to present ID from a limited list of photo IDs, including PennDOT-issued driver's license or non-driver ID or government-issued employee ID. Even many otherwise acceptable photo IDs, such as those issued by Pennsylvania colleges and universities and the Dept. of Veterans' Affairs, will not be accepted because they lack the required expiration dates.
"The commonwealth is wrong to suggest that photo identification is necessary to protect the integrity of elections. It is not. What threatens the integrity of elections is the commonwealth purposefully disenfranchising citizens who are qualified to vote under the Pennsylvania Constitution, are registered to vote and who as in the case of many of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, have in fact voted regularly for decades," said David Gersch of Arnold & Porter LLP of Washington D.C., one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.
The organizations that have joined as plaintiffs are the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Pennsylvania State Conference, and the Homeless Advocacy Project. These groups devote substantial resources to eliminating barriers to voting and are currently swamped with requests for help in obtaining identification.
"This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century," said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. "This law deprives many eligible voters in the commonwealth - disproportionately the poor, minorities, senior citizens, young voters and people with disabilities - of their fundamental right to vote. If this law is allowed to stand it will disenfranchise thousands of voters in Pennsylvania who cannot overcome the law's many hurdles and will undermine the basic fabric of our democracy."
Petitioners in the case demonstrate a variety of different problems with the law. Pittsburgh resident Henrietta Kay Dickerson was required by PennDOT to pay for the ID because her old one had not been expired for more than a year, a qualification not contained in the law but which PennDOT is regularly enforcing.
Asher Schor is a transgender man (female to male) whose driver's license has a picture of a woman and says he is female, but because he now looks, dresses and sounds like a man is likely to encounter problems at the polls in November. Many transgender people, especially those who are in the early stages of transitioning and have not yet formally changed their name and gender identity or who have chosen not to make those changes, are likely to be impacted by the law because poll workers are unlikely to accept their ID even if it is valid.
Bea Bookler is a 93-year-old woman with limited mobility who uses her walker to get to the polling station next door to her assisted-living facility, but she does not have ID and the burden of getting the necessary documents and the ID itself would be too much for this senior citizen. Many senior citizens who may be hardy enough to vote at their polling places will not have photo ID and will not be able physically to do all that is necessary to obtain ID.
Joyce Block is an 89-year-old resident of Doylestown who was rejected for a voter ID by PennDOT because she did not have legal documents proving that her married name on the voter registration really was the same person listed on her birth certificate. Her only evidence was a marriage certificate in Hebrew, which the PennDOT staff could not read. Ms. Block and her family managed to do what most people cannot - they used political connections and influence to get their state senator to pressure PennDOT to overlook the lapse in documentation and issue the ID. Women face extra challenges in obtaining photo ID because of name changes after marriage.
The stories of these plaintiffs illustrate the multiple barriers to obtaining state-issued photo ID. To get a PennDOT ID, individuals need to produce a raised seal birth certificate and an official Social Security card. Some people simply cannot obtain a birth certificate because one was never issued, records were destroyed, or because of clerical errors when recording the birth. The non-waivable fee for getting a birth certificate is $10 in Pennsylvania and more in other states, and that doesn't include the time and money needed for travel and mailing. Others are caught in a catch-22 - with a photo ID required to get a Social Security card and vice versa.
Although Secretary of State Carol Aichele has publicly stated that all voters who need a photo ID in order to vote will be able to obtain a free ID from PennDOT, the reality for those seeking these free IDs has been very different. Dozens of reports have been received about PennDOT's refusal to issue free IDs, insisting, for example, that people must pay because they have had an ID in the past, their ID has not been expired long enough, they don't replace lost ones for free, or people with outstanding child support or fines don't qualify for free IDs.
"The power of the ballot box is the highest impact strategy there is to help low income people get the basics-like education, health care, jobs, houses and safe neighborhoods," said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of PILCOP, and a member of the legal team.
The lawsuit claims that the voter photo ID law imposes a severe burden on the fundamental right to vote in violation of Article I section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states that, "Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage." It also alleges that the ID requirement illegally adds a new qualification for voting. Article VII section 1 of the state constitution only requires that people be 18 years of age, U.S. citizens, and residents of Pennsylvania and their voting district.
Finally, the suit claims that the voter photo ID law irrationally distinguishes between in-person and absentee voters because the latter can vote without photo ID (just by writing down the last four digits of their Social Security number). Pennsylvania allows people to vote absentee only if they can demonstrate an impossibility of getting to the polls on Election Day. While in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent, there have been far more reports of absentee ballot fraud across the country, yet under Pennsylvania's law this form of voting is exempt from the photo ID requirement.
Lawyers for the petitioners filed a motion for preliminary injunction with the court, asking for expedited discovery and a trial date in June in order to allow the Commonwealth Court to decide the case in sufficient time to permit the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the decision in advance of November's election.
The case is Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Lawyers involved in the case include Witold Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Jennifer Clarke of PILCOP; Marian Schneider and Denise Lieberman of Advancement Project; and David P. Gersch, Donna Patterson, John A. Freedman, Michael Rubin, Whitney Moore, Bassel C. Korkor, Dawn Yamane Hewett, Kate Dumouchel, and Daniel Bernstein of Arnold & Porter LLP.
April 12, PHILADELPHIA - A recent study released today by PennPIRG and a broad coalition of voter protection groups found that Pennsylvania’s new photo ID voting law could potentially disenfranchise more than 80% of the state’s college students.
While the law states that it will allow college IDs as a valid form of voting ID, it also includes language requiring that all IDs must have expiration dates, which the study found very few colleges in the state actually print on their issued IDs.
Out of the 110 surveyed colleges and universities only 15 schools have student identification cards for all students that meet the requirements of having a photo, name and expiration date on the card1.
The recent survey was conducted by a diverse coalition of voter protection groups in the state, including PennPIRG, the ACLU, Committee of Seventy, Project H.O.M.E, the Lawyers Committee and Project Vote.
“Voter fraud isn’t a problem in Pennsylvania: Voter engagement is,” said Alana Miller of PennPIRG. “It’s estimated that only 74% of all eligible Americans are registered to vote and in 2008, a year that saw one of the highest turnouts in recent history, only 63% cast their ballot. Lawmakers should be looking for solutions that encourage full participation in democracy, not creating laws that set up hurdles for committed voters.”
Stefano Fuchs, a junior at Muhlenberg College, a school with IDs that will not be valid for voting, said, “It’s often hard as a college student to vote because of the transient nature of our living situation. However, elected officials should be doing what they can to increase voter turn out, not stifle it.”
The state legislature did not make sufficient effort to accommodate students by including college IDs as they are issued at most schools in the state as a valid form of identification for voting.
This discrepancy between how colleges print their IDs and what the state legislature passed into law means that more than 80% of Pennsylvania’s 700,000 college students will not be able to use their college ID to vote on Election Day this fall.
Gina Shin, a student at the University of Pennsylvania stated, “While students at Penn can fortunately use their IDs, its pretty crazy that hundreds of thousands of other students across the state can’t. It seems unfair and like a step in the wrong direction”.
The IDs issued at some of the largest schools in Pennsylvania fail to meet the new requirements, including Penn State and Temple University.
Pennsylvania’s new voter photo ID law is only the most recent in a set of new ID laws that have been considered and passed throughout the country. In the past two years, the country has seen a majority of states propose at least one form of voter photo ID bill, with laws being passed in 10 states. Most voter ID laws proposed in the last two years were modeled off of a template designed by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
A full list of the schools surveyed can be found here: http://pennpirg.org/resources/pap/survey-college-ids-pa