Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled Wednesday in the highly publicized case, denying plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, which would have stopped the law from going into effect in November.
Republican lawmakers approved the measure this past spring in an action that some say was designed to limit participation by Democratic voters in upcoming elections.
The challenge to the law was spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. Among the witnesses were several elderly voters who have been unable to attain proper identification, as well as a transgender Pittsburgh man who contends his ID card could be challenged by poll workers.
Simpson wrote that the witnesses presented were compelling, but their testimony did not constitute evidence that would call for the overturning of the law.
“Petitioners’ counsel did an excellent job of ‘putting a face’ to those burdened by the voter-ID requirement,” Simpson wrote. “At the end of the day, however, I do not have the luxury of deciding this issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses or my esteem for counsel. Rather, I must analyze the law, and apply it to evidence of facial unconstitutionality brought forth in the courtroom, tested by our adversarial system.”
In order for a preliminary injunction to be granted, the plaintiffs must have demonstrated a number of factors; however, Simpson argued that they failed to prove an injunction was needed to prevent immediate and irreparable harm and that greater injury would result from refusing the injunction.
Simpson said he believes the education and outreach initiatives the state will undertake will be carried out in a fair and nonpartisan manner, adding the new photo IDs that the Department of State is offering for voters will alleviate potential for disenfranchisement.
The ACLU said an appeal to the state Supreme Court is “forthcoming.”
According to a new report, only 10 cases of in-person voter fraud have occurred since 2000. The report, based on the review of some 1,000 interviews and 5,000 documents, was released by News21, a project based out of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.