The much-debated voter ID law in Pennsylvania will not go into effect for the Nov. 6 elections, exactly five weeks away.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled Tuesday that there was no way for the state to ensure that voters would be able to get the proper identification this close to Election Day. While the law as it stands now will go into effect next year, there is still the possibility of a permanent injunction.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had sent the law back to the lower court for additional hearings earlier in September.
Democrats in the state see this as a major victory. They had long argued the law — signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March — would disenfranchise demographics for whom getting a new ID would be difficult, including students and the elderly, groups that generally vote Democratic.
Voters will still be asked at the polls whether they have a valid voter ID under the new law, but instead of turning people away who do not have the ID, polling workers will hand out information on how to acquire one.
In the last week, Simpson heard testimony that many of the processes put in place for voters to acquire IDs were not effective and many eligible voters were unable to secure a valid ID.
Given that the law has been debated for so long, some are worried voters may be confused. The Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that was involved in the legal challenge, noted that a public education campaign would be needed to inform people who didn’t have ID that they can now vote.
Political science professor John Lapinski said the impact of yesterday’s decision is still unclear.
“It likely will increase down-ballot turnout for the Dems, but by how much no one knows,” he said in an email. “It is impossible to predict the future, but this will likely be most important for down-ballot races as the polling is very promising for President Obama and Senator [Bob] Casey at the moment.”
College junior and Vice President of College Republicans Arielle Klepach said in an email that “the voter ID verdict is obviously not what we as an organization would have preferred. Personally, though, I believe that it is fair to bar the implementation of the regulation because, while requiring people to show an ID in order to vote is fair, it is unfair to impose a burden on those who do not have an ID in such a short period of time.”
She added, “However, we stand confident that the law itself will remain upheld and will serve to protect the sanctity of voting in the state of Pennsylvania for elections hereafter.”
Penn Democrats released a press release applauding Simpson on his decision to delay the law. “Voters are supposed to choose the leaders, not the other way around, and right-wing politicians are creating barriers to the ballot that prevent voters from having their voices heard — even if that means manipulating the system so that it remains rigged in their favor,” Vice President Dylan Hewitt said. “Our efforts now shift to making sure Pennsylvanians and poll workers are aware of Simpson’s ruling.”