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Opinions Abound on Voter ID Ruling

Elected officials and organizations interested in the future of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law are weighing in on Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson’s ruling on a request to force the state to hold off on the implementation of the law.  The judge decided Tuesday that a valid photo ID does not have to be shown at the polls in November but that the law will be in effect for 2013 elections.  The law’s constitutional validity is still to be decided by the courts.

PA Governor Tom Corbett:

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he was pleased with the portion of the decision that upheld the constitutionality of the voter ID law.  He went on from there to add, “While we believe we have made it possible for every registered voter who needs voter identification to obtain one, we’ll continue our efforts for the next election and all future elections, to make sure every registered voter has the proper identification in an effort to preserve the integrity of our voting process in Pennsylvania.”

Democratic Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Jim Burn:

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn praised the decision.  "Today is a significant victory in the fight to make sure everyone has the right to vote in November, but the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is remaining vigilant to ensure that voters are educated about the voting process and they are protected when they cast their vote."

Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason:

Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason voiced his disappointment with the ruling saying it postpones the “full implementation of a commonsense reform that helps protect the sanctity of our electoral process…  With that being said, Voter ID is still Pennsylvania law… and we will work to encourage voters to bring their photo identification with them to the polls.”

Gleason added, “Poll after poll has shown that Pennsylvanians from both political parties overwhelmingly support Voter ID legislation because, despite the empty rhetoric to the contrary, this legislation is still about ensuring one person, one vote. Our Party remains committed to the citizens of the Commonwealth and we will do all that we can to ensure free and fair elections.”

PA state Sen. Jay Costa:

Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said, "In my view, the court's decision is the correct one in blocking the voter ID law from taking effect this November.  The court is trying to deal with an ill-conceived and short-sighted law.” 

Costa goes on to voice lingering concerns.  "There has been so much controversy about this law, I still believe that some voters will not come out to vote fearing that they do not have the proper ID and therefore be disenfranchised.” 

PA State Rep. Mike Turzai:

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) was quick to point out the portion of the ruling with which he agreed. 

“Today’s decision by the Commonwealth Court upholds Act 18, and voter identification, and that is good.  Voter Identification is about ensuring the integrity of our elections and preserving the principle of the ‘One person, One vote’ doctrine.”

“When votes are diluted through fraud, the system starts to break down. Voter identification has always been about creating a level playing field where every Pennsylvanian’s vote represents an equal opportunity to have a voice in government.”  

Desiree Peterkin-Bell with the Obama Campaign:

Obama for America Pennsylvania Senior Advisor for Communications Desiree Peterkin-Bell said, “Today’s decision means one thing for Pennsylvanians: eligible voters can vote on Election Day, just like they have in previous elections in the state.

“The right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American. The President and his campaign are committed to making sure that every eligible voter, regardless of party, has the ability to make their voices heard and participate in the electoral process.”

PA Secretary of State Carol Aichele:

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, focused on the logistics of Election Day.   

“The streamlined process put in place by the Corbett Administration to help all voters get IDs would have allowed all voters to have acceptable ID by November. However, the judge has concerns about this, and thus the same procedure will be in effect for this election as for the spring primary, in that voters will be requested to show ID, but ID will not be required to vote.”

Aichele then looked to the future 2013 cycle, “We will continue our education and outreach efforts, as directed by the judge in his order, to let Pennsylvanians know the voter ID law is still on track to be fully implemented for future elections, and we urge all registered voters to make sure they have acceptable ID.”

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward:

Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said the court’s decision is “welcome news” and an acknowledgement that the implementation of law has been “inadequate.”  “The decision allows voters, troubled over the hardship involved in obtaining an ID, to rest easier tonight,” said Ward. 

However, Ward adds the ruling is a “temporary fix.”

“The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has documented persistent and widespread confusion over this law among PennDOT staff and voters seeking IDs. The commonwealth must address these problems and demonstrate it is capable of constructing a clear system that gets eligible voters the ID they will need. If it cannot do so, the commonwealth must reconsider the law altogether.”


The NAACP released a pair of statements. NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous call the ruling a victory for the Pennsylvania voter.

“On November 6, voters will no longer need to produce an identification to ensure that their vote is counted. As we look towards 2013, the Pennsylvania NAACP will take this battle from the courts to the legislature. We are confident that this state will not tolerate voter suppression.”

NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference President Jerome Mondesire called the ruling “encouraging.”  However, he added, “Unfortunately, it is a decision that should have been made a long time ago. With 35 days left until Election Day, the state must work with the NAACP and other leading organizations to limit voter confusion. We will work to ensure that poll workers do not wrongly enforce the law, and that all counties are monitored on Election Day."

Gerry Hudson of the SEIU:

Service Employees International Union International Executive President Gerry Hudson responded to the ruling by calling it “a great day for democracy in Pennsylvania.”

“The very foundation of our democracy – the sacred right to vote – was threatened by the burdensome photo ID requirement. Thankfully, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians will now be able to exercise their fundamental right to vote this November without fear of being turned away simply because they lack an unexpired photo ID,” said Hudson.

Ivonne Gutierrez Bucher of the AARP:

AARP Pennsylvania State Director Ivonne Gutierrez Bucher called the ruling "a victory for older voters statewide who were struggling to secure photo IDs in time for the November election.  With today's injunction, registered voters who have voted for years will be able to cast their ballots this November without having to secure a photo ID,"

Gutierrez added, "By pushing the Voter ID requirements into the 2013 election cycle, the court is providing much-needed extra time to continue educating Pennsylvania voters about the law's requirements.” 

“Without an injunction,” said Gutierrez, “we were looking at the very real possibility that these individuals would have been disenfranchised or that their votes would not be counted this November."