Pennsylvania won't enforce ID law in May primary

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show photo identification in the May 21 primary under an agreement signed on 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 will not be enforced as voters choose nominees for judicial and municipal offices.

Constance Parker, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the NAACP, said while she still hopes the voter ID law will be overturned by the courts, the announced delay in its implementation “is good enough for now.”

“Every election and every vote that is cast is important,” said Parker of Penn Hills. “There was great concern that having to present ID at the polls to vote would keep people away. So I do welcome this delay.”

Annette Shimer, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, called the delay “wonderful.”

“When you're dealing with a major change like implementing voter ID, it takes a great deal of effort to train voters and the people who work the polls,” said Shimer of Upper St. Clair. “But there were too many inconsistencies and changes made, so it's definitely a good thing that there will be more time.”

Local election officials will be able to ask to see identification, as they did in the presidential election last fall, but voters will be allowed to cast ballots as usual even if they lack those documents.

If the law were enforced, voters without IDs would have to cast provisional ballots that would count only if they proved their identity afterward to officials.

“At this point, we just don't see the (need) to litigate the issue,” said Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick S. Cawley, who represents the administration.

Witold “Vic” Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, called the delay “a great thing for voters and election officials.”

“This delay improves the likelihood of a smooth election in May,” said Walczak, one of the lawyers who will argue to have the law thrown out when a trial on the constitutional challenge begins on July 15.

Plaintiffs in the case include the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson halted enforcement of the law in the general election on grounds that the state failed to make it possible for voters to easily obtain IDs before the election.

The law's passage last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, without a single Democratic vote, sparked months of heated debate and a court battle that reached the state's highest court before it was temporarily defused by the court's action.

Trib Total Media staff writer Tony LaRussa and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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