Voter ID

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio's voter registration law in a 5-4 ruling Monday that loosens restrictions on how and when the state can purge its voter rolls. Proponents of the law argue it keeps their record books cleaner, while voting rights activists argue it punishes registered voters for not exercising that right, and disproportionally removes minority and Democratic names.

A federal appeals court has overturned North Carolina's sweeping voter ID law, ruling that the law was passed with "discriminatory intent" and was designed to impose barriers to block African-Americans from voting.

The ruling came from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state is "almost certain" to appeal to the full court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Texas voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and it has ordered a lower court to devise a remedy before the November elections.

A district court had found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw some flaws in that conclusion and instructed the lower court to reconsider that element of the case and rule again — preferably after Election Day.

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Nearly 250 million Americans have the right to vote, but many don't exercise it.

University of Pittsburgh Professor Victoria Shineman said there are plenty of reasons for that.

"Voter registration is one of the biggest barriers, especially for initial participation," she said. "A lot of states have deadlines well before the actual election. A lot of people miss that deadline. Also things if you move, if you change your address, remembering to update your address."

Tuesday is  Election Day,  but what happens if you have trouble getting to your polling place?  The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) could give you a lift.

“We do not want to have people prevented in any way to vote, and that’s our mission as B-PEP,” said CEO Tim Stevens.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Imagine for a moment that the Steelers had lost to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. As difficult as that would have been for die-hard fans, most would have accepted the outcome without questioning the integrity of the game.

That was the analogy Rev. Jesse Jackson used during a news conference with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald Monday morning.

Gov. Tom Corbett says he won't appeal a state court ruling that struck down Pennsylvania's voter identification law.

Corbett released a statement Thursday defending the law but saying it needed changes and he hoped to work with the Legislature on them.

The law was one of the strictest in the nation, requiring nearly all voters to show certain forms of photo identification at the polls.

It was never enforced, having been put on hold during the legal challenge that resulted in a Commonwealth Court judge declaring it unconstitutional in January.

Corbett Mulling Next Move On Voter ID

Jan 24, 2014

Days after a state judge struck down Pennsylvania voter identification law, Gov. Tom Corbett says he’s not sure whether his administration will appeal the ruling.

The law was passed at the urging of the Corbett administration by the Republican-controlled Legislature, over protests from Democrats. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley rejected the law in a ruling released last Friday, calling voter ID unconstitutional based in part on its flawed implementation and its foundation on a “vague concern” of voter fraud.

A state judge has struck down the law requiring Pennsylvania's voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said the requirement that was the centerpiece of Pennsylvania's embattled 2012 voter identification law places an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote.

The decision paves the way for an expected appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Republicans approved the law over the protests of Democrats.

Pennsylvania Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) is urging the commonwealth’s State Department to stop airing its voter ID advertisements.

The ads, which began running earlier this week, say voters will be asked, but not required, to show a photo ID at the polls, but Smith said the commercials are almost identical to the original ads that say photo ID is a requirement.

Smith calls the ads “confusing” and “misleading” because they give the impression that identification will be mandatory for the November municipal elections.

A state judge on Friday barred enforcement of Pennsylvania's strict voter-identification law in the Nov. 5 general election.

The state also cannot require local elections officials to verbally tell voters at the polls that photo IDs could be required in future elections, but officials can distribute written material about the law, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said.

McGinley's ruling marked the third consecutive election in which enforcement of the law has been blocked by court order.

How Much Is Voter ID Defense Costing PA?

Aug 6, 2013

Pennsylvania taxpayers still haven’t seen a final tab on what the state is being charged by a private firm to defend the voter identification law in court. In fact, a contract was not publicly available until the day after closing arguments were delivered in the case.

Philadelphia firm Drinker, Biddle and Reath hasn’t yet sent an invoice to the state for services rendered in 2013.

The hourly rate ranges from $325 to $495. Last year, the firm was paid more than $204,000 for defense of voter ID as judges considered temporarily blocking the law.

The commonwealth is willing to extend the temporary block on the voter ID law through the upcoming general election in the fall.

The statement came from lawyers for the state during closing arguments in the Commonwealth Court trial of the constitutionality of the voter identification law.

Challengers argue it should be not just blocked temporarily, but struck down.

Jennifer Clarke, one of the lawyers arguing against the measure, said the commonwealth’s offer to extend the temporary block surprised her.

Closing arguments in the trial of Pennsylvania's voter-identification law have been postponed for a day, but the state's legal team filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley scheduled the arguments for Thursday and said he'd review the motion.

Court is in recess for now in the trial over the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's voter identification law. The trial is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

Questions of numbers and statistical techniques filled the ninth day of testimony. Lawyers spent hours questioning the state's statistician, William Wecker, who offered a critique of the estimate provided in testimony last week that half a million Pennsylvania voters don't have proper voter ID on record with the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Case Drags On

Jul 25, 2013

In the ongoing battle between the state of Pennsylvania and the opponents of the state’s controversial voter ID laws, it appears that the trial will drag on slower than expected. The root of this slow down in the Commonwealth Court case is, according to WESA capital correspondent and WITF reporter Mary Wilson, a spat between the court’s two sides over a list of roughly 500 people whose attempts to attain identification proved fruitless.

State Begins Case in Voter ID Trial

Jul 25, 2013

Eight days into trial, lawyers defending Pennsylvania's voter identification law still may ask the presiding judge to dismiss the case entirely.

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the lawyers defending the requirement, said a motion may be filed to dismiss certain witness testimony and claims made by the challengers.

Testimony in the second week of a trial of Pennsylvania's voter identification law is digging into the documentation of how the language of the law was finalized.

Two state agencies suggested in 2011 that the voter ID legislation then making its way through the Legislature should make it easier for elderly and disabled voters to cast absentee ballots.

A memo from the Department of Aging and the Department of State points out the change would provide a way for such people to vote even if they had trouble getting photo ID because of illness or limited mobility.

Voter ID On Trial: An Update From the Capitol

Jul 18, 2013
Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law has come back to trial in the Commonwealth court, and both sides are making serious plays.  WITF’s  capital reporter Mary Wilson says the first few days of testimony were brimming with testimony from those challenging the laws, but talk of voter fraud -- one of the issues legislators emphasized most when passing the law -- was surprisingly limited.

Sparring Over Numbers in Voter ID Trial

Jul 17, 2013

The battle over numbers swells anew in the voter ID trial, headed into its third day in Commonwealth Court Wednesday.

Tuesday's testimony began with a statistician's analysis that more than half a million registered voters in Pennsylvania would have no valid ID issued by PennDOT or the Department of State in the upcoming general election.

Voter ID Challengers Hint at Telling Memo

Jul 16, 2013

Lawyers challenging the voter ID law say the governor knew it was trouble.

In the opening argument for the plaintiffs, attorney Michael Rubin, said he'll share a memo sent by state agencies to the Corbett administration warning the law would disenfranchise elderly and disabled eligible voters unless changes were made. The administration did not push lawmakers to make the suggested changes.

The memo, Rubin said, is from November 2011 — several months before the passage of voter ID.

Voter ID Fight Resumes in Pennsylvania Court

Jul 14, 2013
jamelah / Flickr

Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law is back in Commonwealth Court this week, but it's unlikely to be decided conclusively any time soon.

Voting rights advocates are seeking a permanent injunction against the 2012 law, which requires Pennsylvania voters to present state-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Implementation was postponed ahead of last year's general election and again in 2013 in advance of the May primary.

Opponents of Voter ID Rally Before Monday Trial

Jul 12, 2013
Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Groups opposed to the state's voter ID law are gearing up for Monday's trial of the law in Commonwealth Court.

The full panoply of liberal political interests filled the Capitol rotunda Thursday. Roughly 150 people turned out — union members, environmental advocates and civil rights activists — all to protest Pennsylvania's law requiring people to have certain state-issued IDs to cast ballots.

The NAACP's national president Ben Jealous called Pennsylvania "ground zero for the fight for voting rights in the north."

No ID Needed For PA Voters in May Primary

Feb 15, 2013

Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show photo identification in the May 21 primary election under an agreement signed Thursday by both sides in a pending lawsuit.

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.