Democracy in action? More like democracy inaction. A Pennsylvania judge said he would not halt a strict new voter identification law that critics say could effectively disenfranchise nearly 10 percent of the population and disproportionally affect the young, the elderly and the poor in the state’s urban areas.

The controversial law, which requires Pennsylvanians to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, is backed by state Republicans. The top Republican in the state’s House, Mike Turzai, has even said the law would help Mitt Romney win the state in November.

In a 70-page decision, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson wrote, “[T]he inconvenience of going to PennDOT [Department of Transportation], gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on the vast super-majority of registered voters.” He added that opponents of the voter ID law also did not prove that “disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable.”

The opponents are expected to appeal the decision. If they are unsuccessful, more than 750,000 Pennsylvania voters who don’t have valid photo IDs will be unable to cast their ballots in the fall.

— Posted by Tracy Bloom.


Pennsylvania’s law is part of a flurry of new voter ID legislation this year. It is one of the toughest laws that will be in place for the November election. Given the disproportionate effect these laws are likely to have on young, and lower-income, urban voters, Democrats are concerned that their polling lead in the state will dwindle.

…Simpson’s decision acknowledged the partisan discussions surrounding the law, but said those motivations don’t invalidate the reasons for enacting it

“I also considered allegations of partisan motivation for Act 18 in general, and the disturbing, tendentious statements by House Majority Leader Michael Turzai to a Republican party gathering in particular,” he wrote. “Ultimately, however, I determined that this evidence did not invalidate the interests supporting Act 18, for factual and legal reasons.”

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