In a decision being cheered by voting-rights advocates, a judge has issued a preliminary injunction against Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law.
Judge Robert Simpson ruled that poll workers can ask voters for ID, but they cannot turn away voters who do not have one. Nor can such voters be forced to cast a provisional ballot.
The ruling did not strike down the law, it merely ensured that the law won't be in effect for this fall's election.
“We are very glad voters will not be turned away from the polls this November if they do not have an ID,” said Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project, which helped bring the case, in a statement.
Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice was more effusive. “Today’s decision is a clear victory for Pennsylvania voters and the cause of voting rights across the country," Weiser said in a statement.
State election officials had last week made modifications to the law in an effort to convince the judge not to block it. But Simpson wrote: “I cannot conclude the proposed changes cure the deficiency in liberal access [to ID's] identified by the Supreme Court.”
But despite the victory, some concerns remain. Voting-rights advocates expressed dissatisfaction that poll workers will still be allowed to ask for ID, potentially causing confusion. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy,” said Penda Hair of the Advancement Project.
And some said the state's $5 million ad campaign informing voters that they'll need ID has already sown confusion. "It's our hope that the state will revise its public education," Benjamin Geffen, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, another group that helped bring the case, told Lean Forward.
Some Republican supporters of the law claimed a partial victory, citing the fact that, as it stands, the law will be in effect for future elections. "It's still a victory for election integrity, because ultimately every voter will need to have a photo ID," Steve Miskin, a spokesman for State Rep. Mike Turzai, told Lean Forward. Turzai provoked anger among voting rights supporters when he told a group of fellow Republicans in June that the law would "allow" Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania this fall.
The legal fight may still not be over. The judge's ruling can be appealed to the state's Supreme Court.