Press Releases on Pennsyvania Voter ID Law
see also ACLU of PA page on Applewhite et al vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.

Oct. 2, 2012 - Office of Governor Tom Corbett: Governor Corbett, Secretary Aichele Issue Statements on Court Ruling
Oct. 2, 2012 - Advancement Project: In Voting Rights Victory, PA Voters Cannot Be Required to Present Photo at the Polls this Nov.
Oct. 2, 2012 - AFL-CIO: Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Judge’s Decision Enjoining Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law
Oct. 2, 2012 - Congressional Black Caucus: CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver’s Statement on Pennsylvania Court’s Voter ID Ruling

Sept. 20, 2012 - Allegheny County: Fitzgerald Announces Kane Regional Centers & CCAC To Issue Voter Photo IDs
Sept. 20, 2012 - Montgomery County: Montco takes action to increase access to voter ID
Setp. 10, 2012 - Communications Workers of America: NAACP and Unions Working Together to Overcome Pennsylvania Voter Suppression Law

Aug. 15, 2012 - Office of Governor Tom Corbett: Governor Corbett, Secretary of Commonwealth Respond to Voter ID Ruling
Aug. 15, 2012 - American Civil Liberties Union of PA: Judge Rejects Challenge to PA's Voter ID Law
Aug. 15, 2012 - League of Women Voters of PA: Pennyslvania Court Upholds Voter ID Law

July 3, 2012 - Pennsylvania Department of State: Department of State and PennDOT Confirm Most Registered Voters Have Photo ID

May 1, 2012 - American Civil Liberties Union of PA: Groups File Lawsuit in Commonwealth Court to Overturn Pennsylvania's Unconstitutional Voter Photo ID Law

April 13, 2012 - PennPIRG: Vast Majority of PA College IDs Not Valid for Voting

March 14, 2012 - Office of Governor Tom Corbett: Governor Corbett Signs Voter ID Bill to Require Photo Identification

PRESS RELEASE from Office of Governor Tom Corbett

Oct. 2, 2012

Governor Corbett, Secretary Aichele Issue Statements on Court Ruling

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

Media contacts:
Kevin Harley, Governor’s Office
Ron Ruman, Dept. of State


PRESS RELEASE from Advancement Project

In Voting Rights Victory, PA Voters Cannot Be Required to Present Photo at the Polls this Nov.

Court Found Commonwealth Officials Unprepared to Implement the Law for November Election

Contact: Rich Robinson, Advancement Project


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.

October 2, 2012

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Judge’s Decision Enjoining Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law

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

PRESS RELEASE from the Congressional Black Caucus

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.”


PRESS RELEASE from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
September 20, 2012

Fitzgerald Announces Kane Regional Centers & CCAC To Issue Voter Photo IDs

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.”

 # # #

PRESS RELEASE from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Montco takes action to increase access to voter ID
Schwenksville, PA (September 20, 2012) – The Montgomery County Commissioners Thursday night voted unanimously to assist registered county voters in getting an acceptable identification for voting.

The resolution passed by the commissioners authorizes Parkhouse, the county’s senior care center to issue picture IDs to county residents that will fulfill the state identification requirements at the polls.

David Robinson, an assistant solicitor for the county, explained at the commissioners meeting that the Pennsylvania Voter ID law designates five authorized issuers of ID cards including Pennsylvania care facilities.  Robinson said that the statute specifically limits municipalities to only issuing cards to its employees, but the law imposes no limitation on the remaining four authorized issuers.

 “A strict reading of the law clearly authorizes a Pennsylvania care facility, such as Parkhouse, to issue voter ID cards to any registered voter,” Robinson said.

Commission Chair Josh Shapiro hailed the action.  “I continually hear from voters who are having trouble securing a proper ID card to vote,” he said.  “While my opposition to the Voter ID law is well-documented, I took an oath to uphold all of the laws.  Tonight’s unanimous decision by our board, simply ensures the rights of eligible Montgomery County voters.  I realize that this does not solve the problem across the Commonwealth but it is an important step in the right direction for our constituents in Montgomery County.”
Commissioner Leslie Richards has been closely overseeing the county’s adherence to the Voter ID law as the chair of the county’s Election Board.  “Despite my belief that the Voter ID law is bad and unnecessary legislation, we have been focused on ensuring that our election officials carry out the law as directed, while at the same time trying to make sure that any eligible voter who wants to vote can do so,” Richards said.  “This action tonight is simply another step, albeit a large one, in making sure that happens.”

Commissioner Bruce Castor’s support of the action came from a slightly different direction.  “After spending more than two decades as a prosecutor,” said the former Montgomery County District Attorney, “I am all about the law.  The Pennsylvania Voter ID law permits this course of action, I believe we are following the law and making it as easy as possible to obtain voter ID.”

Assistant Solicitor Robinson agreed and also said that the commissioners’ action is in concert with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order last week to Commonwealth Court that voters have liberal access to voter ID cards, and that the Commonwealth not be imposing stricter or more rigorous rules for obtaining the voter ID cards than is contemplated by the Voter ID Law.

“Parkhouse’s issuance of voter ID cards helps achieve both of the Court’s goals.” Robinson said.  “First, it helps to assure that Montgomery County voters have liberal access to voter ID cards. Second, a Commonwealth challenge to Parkhouse’s right to issue voter ID cards would arguably be an attempt to impose stricter rules than are contemplated by the statute, a direct violation of the express mandate of the Supreme Court.”

The commissioners said that details about the voter ID program would be released shortly, but that implementation would start October 1.

PRESS RELEASE from Communications Workers of America
September 10, 2012

NAACP and Unions Working Together to Overcome Pennsylvania Voter Suppression Law
Philadelephia and Pittsburgh Targeted for Voter Registration, Educational Effort

Philadelphia, PA – Two national unions and the Pennsylvania NAACP today announced a collaborative effort to register 25,000 new voters in the Keystone State by October 1st.

The effort by members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the NAACP will also focus on educating voters on the requirements of the state’s new voter identification law, a measure recently passed by the Republican-dominated State Legislature that is cynically designed to suppress turnout – particularly in the minority community.

“The NAACP and Organized Labor have made a commitment to ensure all civil rights are granted to all people, and here in Pennsylvania the right to vote is being threatened by a conservative, extreme group of people. We will not sit by and we will fight back and we will register as many voters over the course of the next month”, said Northeast Regional Director Marvin Bing

Transport Workers Union Local 234 President John Johnson, Jr. said, “Our collaboration shows how serious we are about coming together to address voter suppression in PA.  Our members in TWU, CWA, and the NAACP represent a strong coalition that will take a stand for democracy and protect the voting rights of our members, families, and communities.”

Volunteers from all three organizations will be taking to the streets in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh carrying voter registration forms, and will have materials providing information on the proper forms of identification now required by law in Pennsylvania to exercise the most basic right of every American citizen.

“Together, we will work day and night in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to register new voters and educate current voters about what they now need to do to participate in the democratic process,” said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. “Some in the State Legislature may think they can keep eligible voters away from the polls with unnecessary hurdles, but they need to think again.”


Contact: Jessica Neal, NAACP Communications

Ralph Branch, TWU Communications

Chuck Porcari or Liz Schilling, CWA Communications

PRESS RELEASE from Office of Governor Tom Corbett

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

Media contacts:
Janet Kelley, Governor’s Office
Ron Ruman, Dept. of State


PRESS RELEASE from ACLU of Pennsylvania
Judge Rejects Challenge to PA's Voter ID Law

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."


PRESS RELEASE from The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
August 15, 2012
Olivia Thorne (LWVPA)
Stephanie Drahan, (LWVUS)

League of Women Voters Lawsuit unsuccessful in halting voter ID law

Today, in spite of strong testimony and the failure of state officials to provide any evidence of voter fraud by impersonation, the lawsuit brought by American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania in which the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania was the lead organizational plaintiff, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the state’s photo identification law passed earlier his year. The League of Women Voters is appalled by this decision. This is the first time in recent months that voting rights groups have been unsuccessful in blocking implementation of these voter suppression laws. The states that have halted voter ID laws include Texas, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

“We are disappointed that the Pennsylvania court has upheld this voter suppression law. Recently, when similar laws in other states have been reviewed by a court or the U.S. Department of Justice they have been deemed to be discriminatory, and we believe this to be the case in Pennsylvania,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States.

“We are dismayed with the decision of the court. The League is discouraged but undaunted. It’s a sad day for citizens when political rhetoric wins over democracy. We will continue to work to educate voters about voter identification requirements and help people get a photo ID while we await the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. All who read the testimony or were present in the courtroom were moved by the compelling stories of witnesses who shared the impact of this law on our most precious right to vote. As many as 1.2 million eligible voters could be disenfranchised in November’s election if the Supreme Court allows Judge Simpson’s ruling to stand. The erosion of one person’s right to vote impacts each of us” said Olivia Thorne, President of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

“Time and time again these laws have been found to be illegal. It is time to realize that these voter suppression laws cannot and should not be enacted in any state; they are legally and morally unjustifiable. It is time for us to move beyond the rhetoric and work to pass new laws that will ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote and will have their vote counted without any undue barriers. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake,” concluded MacNamara.

It is expected that today’s decision will be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

PRESS RELEASE from Pennsylvania Department of State
News for Immediate Release
July 3, 2012

Department of State and PennDOT Confirm Most Registered Voters Have Photo ID

Harrisburg – The vast majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania have identification that can be used for voting, according to recent a comparison of the Department of State‟s voter registration rolls and PennDOT ID databases.

“This thorough comparison of databases confirms that most Pennsylvanians have acceptable photo ID for voting this November,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele said. “This comparison takes into account only voters with PennDOT IDs, and does not include voters who may have any of the other various acceptable forms of ID.”

All voters identified as not having a PennDOT ID number will be contacted by letter this summer, reminding them of the new voter ID law, what IDs are acceptable for voting purposes, and how to get a free ID if they don‟t have one.

County election directors will also be provided with the names and addresses of voters in their counties who did not match any record in the PennDOT database.

The database comparison shows: 91 percent of Pennsylvania‟s 8,232,928 registered voters have PennDOT ID numbers Of the 758,939 voters who could not be matched between the Department of State and PennDOT databases, 22 percent, or 167,566, are inactive voters, most of whom have not voted since 2007.

One of the reasons a voter can be put on “inactive” status is if he or she has not voted in five years. A notice must be sent asking if the voter is still at the listed address. If the voter does not respond to this notice, the voter is placed on “inactive” status. Federal and state law require keeping an “inactive voter” on the registration list until he or she has not voted in two consecutive general elections for federal office after the date of the notice.

“Even though many voters identified in this comparison as not having PennDOT IDs are „inactive voters‟, most of whom have not voted since 2007, we will err on the side of caution and include them in this mailing,” Aichele said.
Other registered voters may not have matched PennDOT‟s list due to a variation in names between the voter registration and PennDOT databases.

For example, an individual who is registered to vote as Jon Smith but whose driver‟s license name is Jonathan Smith, would not show as a match, and be reported as not having a PennDOT ID number.

This list also does not take into account voters without PennDOT identification who have other acceptable forms of identification. Such other acceptable forms include identification from accredited Pennsylvania colleges or universities, Pennsylvania care facilities, military identification, valid U.S. passports, other photo identification issued by the federal or Pennsylvania government, or employee identification issued by the federal, Pennsylvania, or a county or municipal government.

All identification used for voting must have an expiration date and be current, except for Pennsylvania driver‟s licenses or non-driver photo identification, which are valid for voting purposes one year past their expiration. Retired military identification with an indefinite expiration date is also valid for voting purposes.

Voters who do not have an acceptable form of photo identification for voting can get one for free at any PennDOT driver license center.

“We are committed to helping any eligible voter who does not have an acceptable ID get one to be able to vote in November,” Aichele said. “We are continuing our outreach to get the word to voters about this law. The goal of this law is to allow every legal voter to cast a ballot, but detect and deter anyone attempting to vote illegally.”

To find the driver license center nearest you or get more information on the voter ID law, visit or call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).
Media contact: Ron Ruman
PRESS RELEASE from American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

Groups File Lawsuit in Commonwealth Court to Overturn Pennsylvania's Unconstitutional Voter Photo ID Law
Thousands of Pennsylvanians at risk of losing the right to vote

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.



Vast Majority of PA College IDs Not Valid for Voting
Tens of Thousands of Students Affected, New Study Finds
For Immediate Release
Friday, April 13, 2012

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:

PRESS RELEASE from Office of Governor Tom Corbett
March 14, 2012
Governor Corbett Signs Voter ID Bill to Require Photo Identification

Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today signed into law House Bill 934, also known as the Photo Voter ID bill, which will require Pennsylvanians to produce photo identification when they vote.

“I am signing this bill because it protects a sacred principle, one shared by every citizen of this nation. That principle is: one person, one vote,’’ Corbett said. “It sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.’’

The law goes into effect immediately, but the photo ID will not be required for the primary election next month. However, voters will be reminded at that time that a photo ID will be required for November’s general election.

Studies show that 99 percent of Pennsylvania’s eligible voters already have acceptable photo IDs. Any voter who does not have an acceptable form of photo ID can get one, free of charge, at any PennDOT driver license center.

A recent poll determined that 87 percent of Pennsylvania voters favor a law requiring identification at the polls. Thirty-one other states currently require
identification and 15 of them require a photo ID.

Some examples of a photo ID include a Pennsylvania driver’s license or non-driver license photo ID, a military ID, valid U.S. passport, county or municipal employee ID, college ID or personal care home ID. All photo IDs must be current and include an expiration date.

This law is designed to make sure all citizens legally entitled to vote can do so.
Individuals applying to register to vote must be:

· A citizen of the United States for at least one month before an election;
· A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which the individual desires to register and vote for at least 30 days before the election; and
· At least 18 years of age on or before the election.

Election laws fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of State.

“This law will help us preserve the integrity of every vote in Pennsylvania,’’ said Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele. “No one entitled to vote will be denied that right by this bill, but by preventing those not legally allowed to vote from casting ballots, we will make sure every vote carries the weight it should in deciding elections.’’

For more information on the voter ID law or voter registration, call the Department of State’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or visit

Media contacts:
Janet Kelley, Governor’s Office
Ron Ruman, Dept. of State