Voter ID legal fight will skip primary

Pa. officials intend to enforce the law for November election

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Despite confusion last November about whether Pennsylvania voters needed to present photo identification to vote, the state does not plan to roll out an ad campaign about the new law before the May 21 primary election.

Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show photo identification in the primary election, but some worry that voters may still be confused.

"At the moment, we have no funding for a paid ad campaign," said Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Under an agreement signed Thursday in a pending lawsuit over the voter ID law, both sides agreed that voters will not be required to show photo identification in the primary.

Lawyers representing the Corbett administration and plaintiffs who are challenging the constitutionality of the voter ID law in state Commonwealth Court agreed that the law won't be enforced as voters choose nominees for judicial and municipal offices.

Before the presidential election in November, the state launched a $5 million ad campaign announcing the voter ID law, which would have required voters to cast provisional ballots if they weren't able to produce appropriate identification. That ad campaign was funded through the Help America Vote Act, which supports advertising only during federal election cycles, Mr. Ruman said.

In October, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked implementation of the voter ID law because the state did not provide adequate time for voters without IDs to secure proper identification for the November general election.

But ads declaring the enforcement of the law remained after Judge Simpson's ruling, potentially misleading voters about what documentation they would need in order to vote.

Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said there was plenty of confusion on Election Day. "There were a handful of people who were turned away. There was a lot of confusion about the kind of ID required for first-time voters."

Mr. Walczak said he is worried that there are no plans to educate voters before the May primary, even though they won't be required to show ID.

"It's unfortunate because the most conservative estimate is that there are over 80,000 voters without acceptable ID," Mr. Walczak said. "Without some effort to hook those folks up with IDs, those numbers will not decrease. You're still talking about substantial disenfranchisement of eligible voters."

The law passed the Republican-controlled Legislature with no Democratic support in March of last year.

The subsequent lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the voter ID law was filed by the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The court case is scheduled to begin July 15, well after the May 21 primary.

"We're looking at the fall for the first potential implementation of the law. We hope that will be the case," Mr. Ruman said. "We're hoping that by this November the public will be educated on the law to know what IDs they can bring to allow them to vote, assuming [the law] is upheld."

state

Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman.


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