The judge hearing a challenge to Pennsylvania's voter ID law has ordered the state to turn over information from its databases of voters and drivers.
The number of Pennsylvania voters without acceptable identification was a central question last year in a hearing on whether the law would remain in effect for the November 2012 elections. That proceeding resulted in the extension -- now through the May primary elections -- of a phase-in period in which voters were asked, but not required, to show photo identification.
As attorneys prepare to argue whether the law should be allowed on a permanent basis, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on Monday instructed the state to provide information -- including names, addresses and the last four digits of Social Security numbers -- from its rosters of voters and holders of Department of Transportation identification. He wrote that the information will assist in estimating the number of people who could be affected by the law.
The information will be given to experts hired to match the two databases, said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and an attorney in the case.
"If we're talking about passing a law that requires certain IDs, let's find out how many voters don't have those IDs," he said.
The order requires the information to be produced before next Tuesday. The Department of State, which maintains the voter registry, will do its best to comply, spokesman Ron Ruman said. He added that voters can obtain acceptable identification by visiting a PennDOT licensing center and providing the information needed to register to vote.
"Our feeling really is right now the relevant question is can anyone who wants an ID get one, and our belief is absolutely they can," he said.
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141.