Plaintiffs seeking to overturn Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law narrowed their focus Thursday to a few dozen photo ID cards that registered voters sought, but did not receive, before last year’s presidential election.
At issue in the Commonwealth Court trial were special Pennsylvania Department of State cards developed as a last resort for registered voters who couldn’t get a PennDOT ID card to comply with the new requirement that all voters must show acceptable photo IDs before they will be allowed to vote.
The March 2012 law remains in limbo, unenforced by order of the court.
While questioning a state official, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Witold Walczak said a review of state computer records showed that 42 registered voters applied for their cards before the election but did not receive them until afterward, sometimes months later, and that 82 other registered voters did not receive cards at all after applying for them.
Had the law been in effect, “those 124 duly registered voters would not have been able to cast a [regular] ballot” for their presidential choice, Walczak said. The law allows a voter without ID to cast a provisional ballot, which is counted only if the voter provides a photo ID to county election officials within six days after the election.
Jonathan Marks, the commissioner of the Department of State’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, testified that officials are continuing efforts to refine the voter ID system, but he did not dispute Walczak’s numbers.
“Does this undermine your confidence in the integrity of the election if this law goes into effect?” Walczak asked.
“It doesn’t,” Marks replied.
Marks said his agency would have tried with “a lot more urgency” to resolve such problems by Election Day if the law were being enforced and would have provided any documentation about pending ID applications to the counties involved to expedite the process. He stressed that presidential elections are the busiest time for elections officials.
The law, which would be one of the strictest in the nation, was approved by the Legislature’s Republican majority without any Democratic votes and signed by GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. The court has blocked enforcement of the law in both the fall election and the judicial and municipal primaries in May.