After several days of testimony and strong direction from the State Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson reversed himself and approved an injunction of the state’s voter ID law.
It will not be in effect for the November General Election, though it may after January.
Last month Simpson denied the injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO and others that challenged the law as unduly burdensome, particularly for African-Americans, the elderly and young voters.
The law’s constitutionality was not an issue, either for Simpson or the Supreme Court. The issue was whether or not Simpson thought anyone eligible would be unable to cast a ballot because of the law, or if he found the state had not complied with law’s promise of providing liberal access to a photo ID that voters were required to carry on election day.
Though the Department of State eased requirements for getting a free photo ID, and had even begun issuing its own voter-only ID, Simpson found that having to do that clearly indicated the state had failed to meet the access requirement.
NAACP Philadelphia Branch President Jerry Mondesire, owner of the Philadelphia Sun was among the most vocal of the law’s critics calling it a voter repression law.
“Score this one a victory for the people, and a loss for the scheming politicians who wanted to steal this election,” he said. “The NAACP is gratified by the decision of Judge Simpson, and though it will become the law, it will not have a debilitating effect on voter turnout in four weeks.”
Locally, Khari Mosely, civic engagement director for the Pittsburgh chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, said he is pleased with Simpson’s ruling.
“We are pleased the judge made the right decision based on the Supreme Court’s direction,” he said. “While we feel a law like this should not even be on the books, we are happy it will not be an obstacle in this year’s election.”
Mosely said a rally with Rev. Al Sharpton scheduled for Oct. 6 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture will go on as planned even though the Voter ID law has been shelved.
“Naturally the tenor will be more celebratory, but the work isn’t done,” he said. “We have an Oct. 9 registration deadline and ID Law or not, you still have to be registered to vote.”
President Obama’s re-election campaign quickly released a statement supporting Simpson’s ruling.
“The right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American,” it read. “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.”