Pennsylvania Judge Denies Injunction Of State ID Law

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued an important ruling on Wednesday that rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction of the Pennsylvania Voter ID law. Since these motions are based on a determination of the likelihood of prevailing on the merits, the decision has a significant impact not only for the case but cases around the country. Even if one disagrees with Simpson’s decision, the 70-page opinion below is well-reasoned and will be, in my view, difficult to reverse in the appeal to the state supreme court (which is divided evenly between Republican and Democratic jurists). With one Republican justice, Joan Orie Melvin, fighting criminal corruption charges, the Court is divided three to three along party lines. However, there is no reason to assume that these jurists will all vote in line with their political affiliations as opposed to their view of the law. A tie on the Supreme Court would result in a decision upholding the decision. I will be discussing the case this morning on CNN.

The law requires the showing of an ID for voting, which can include a driver’s license, military ID cards, U.S. passports, identification cards from accredited Pennsylvania colleges or universities, Pennsylvania senior care facility IDs, or other photo identification cards issued by the federal, Pennsylvania, county or municipal governments.

Simpson not only rejected the legal basis for the challenge but added factual findings that could pose a problem on appeal — minimizing the impact of the voters affected by the law.

Challengers to the law (which is similar to laws in nine other states) insist that it is designed to disenfranchise voters who are minority, poor, or elderly. Those are critical groups in the democratic base and the law is viewed as a Republican effort to suppress turnout. Even Pennsylvania admitted that voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the state and national studies have found similarly low numbers in other states. That reinforces the view that this was a politically motivated law by state GOP members concerned about the expected close presidential election in November.

Simpson acknowledged the possible political machinations and chastised comments by the Republican House leader, Mike Turzai, as “disturbing” and “boastful.” Turzai seemed eager to undermine any claim of a neutral rationale for the law in proclaiming at a dinner that the new law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

However, Simpson did not view such admittedly revealing (and rather moronic) public statements to be determinative in the legal analysis. He found that the Commonwealth’s asserted interest in protecting public confidence in elections is a relevant and legitimate state interest sufficiently weighty to justify the burden.” More importantly, he ruled that requiring a voter to show one government ID is a “reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life.”

Simpson’s decision is buttressed by the 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008) upholding an Indiana law requiring photo IDs. That decision was written by liberal icon Justice John Paul Stevens who found that such laws are “amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.” Stevens wrote in the 6-3 decision (which Simpson cites extensively):

“The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483.[2] Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting. The severity of the somewhat heavier burden that may be placed on a limited number of persons—e.g., elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate—is mitigated by the fact that eligible voters without photo identification may cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they execute the required affidavit at the circuit court clerk’s office. Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek.”

Simpson is likely to be challenged on not requiring more of a showing from the state on critical points. He gave “substantial deference to the judgment of the Legislature” on these questions. He specifically opted not to apply a strict scrutiny standard as requested by the challengers who argued that the standard applied due to the denial of a fundamental right. Simpson acknowledged in the opinion that “[i]f strict scrutiny is to be employed, I might reach a different determination.”

However, Simpson iron-plated his decision with extensive legal and factual findings. This is no ideological diatribe. You can disagree with him, but the opinion is well-constructed and well-presented.

The situation in other states can vary. Some of those states (like Texas, South Carolina and Florida) fall under added restrictions under the federal voting law and new voting laws must be approved by the Justice Department. The Obama Administration is opposed to the laws and Attorney General Eric Holder recently spoke to black ministers on fighting the efforts in these states. Moreover, while nine states — Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin — passed new ID laws, only Kansas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee appear set to apply the laws to the November elections.

Notably, Simpson created a factual record that found a much lower number of people affected by the law — a factual finding that is generally given deference on appeal as opposed to legal findings. Simpson rejected the estimate that 9 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters lack a viable ID.

As I mentioned, I would bet on the decision being upheld or effectively upheld with a tie on the state supreme court. It is also doubtful the United States Supreme Court would intervene in the case before the November elections, particularly if it is upheld by the lower court. That will not be welcomed news in a key state for the President but the Obama campaign may be wise to focus on preparing voters rather than betting on a reversal.

Here is the opinion: Simpson Opinion

309 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Judge Denies Injunction Of State ID Law”

  1. Did I offend your corporatist fascist sensibilities, Jim? I’m sorry! And by sorry I mean I really hope so.

  2. Jim,

    Again, I won’t address irrelevant points that you dictate as fed to you by FoxNews. Those below a certain income threshold shouldn’t pay taxes as a matter of equity because 10% to them may mean the difference between eating or not whereas to a billionaire such a percentage doesn’t substantively and materially threaten their life.

    In addition and to be perfectly clear, I want to put down people like the Koch Brothers because they are fascist assh*les busy usurping the Constitution. They are enemies of the Constitution and enemies of the country. Screw them and their supporters. Just to be clear. That you like them says far more about where your loyalties lay and it isn’t to the legal foundational principles of this country. Also, the tax code being publicly published has nothing to do with it being inequitable and manipulated by people like you asshat heroes, the Kochs.

  3. Bron,

    Do you know what the word “like” means in that context as a noun? It means “the kind or sort of”. If you want to point to inequitable tax loopholes for small business? Be my guest. If you want to say there is a disparity in loopholes afforded big business over small business? Be my guest. The tax code is broken in far more ways than one.

  4. Gene H.

    Again, no mention of the 47% who pay no income tax. Also, do not confuse work income from interest income or investment income, etc. When talking about working income, the tax code is simple: the more you earn the more you pay. There are deductions for everyone if they have the knowledge of them. I can’t help that people are ignorant. You want to put down people like the Koch brothers when people should be like them. Knowledge is power!! The more you have allows you to get ahead. The tax code if online for everyone to read. If you choose not to read it then do not complain about those who do.

  5. I dont know, all of the information I have seen says the top 20% of income earners pay the majority of the taxes.

    We need a flat tax with no loop holes and a rate of between 15 and 20% of all income from work or investment or whatever. This is total tax a person pays in a year, SS, property, etc.

  6. Gene H:

    A small businessman or woman is not going to take a tax credit for outsourcing.

    I wonder how many small business people take a deduction for outsourcing,

  7. Jim,

    What you don’t know about what I know could fill volumes as evidenced by your ridiculous assertion that Americans are taxed fairly and proportionately. Anyone who has ever taken a course in tax law and any honest tax attorney is laughing heartily at that bit of propaganda for the corporatist/fascists like the Koch and (their cheer leading Koch suckers) the rest of the venal 1%. When you get two diametrically opposed pols like Max Baucus and David Camp agreeing that the tax code is riddled with special interest breaks and loopholes, is not serving the economy well and badly needs an overhaul? It is pretty apparent that people with actual knowledge of the tax code instead of an agenda of personal and corporate green is going to find your assertion both absurd and hilarious.



    “the laws were written to benefit people who had businesses. I did not make the hoops.”

    There are deductions that exist that rationally qualify as valid business expenses that their deduction makes sense in light of the goal of stimulation of real productive economic growth and then there are the loopholes simply related to greed like tax credits for off shore outsourcing and avoidance of taxes on investment income so your statement is a false equivalence combined with the “I know it’s wrong but I’m going to exploit it anyway” defense.

  8. Gene H
    Every American should be taxed fairly and proportionately.
    They are. The rich pay a lot more ( and their percentage is much higher) How come you say nothing about the 47% who pay no income tax at all? Where is fairness in that. They are the people who show up to the party with no gift or food item but want to take all of the leftovers home.

  9. Gene H.

    You do not know anything about loopholes. I bet your against farm subsidies. Just wait when food prices go way up in a few months due to drought and the selling of a lot of cattle (I am in the cattle business) Also, gas prices will be about $5 and then we will see how city folk handle it. America has no money and will not be able to do much for them. By the way do not fault people who take advantage of current law.

  10. the laws were written to benefit people who had businesses. I did not make the hoops.

    But I do agree that our tax system is broken.

    Why are you using the word maladaptive? The tax code has evolved and adapted to all kinds of outside influence.

  11. Jim,

    Valid deductions for business expenses are not the same thing as loopholes allowing avoidance of taxes on arbitrage and other non-productive transactions, but nice try at a false equivalence. And by nice I mean sadly transparent and pathetic.



    Every American should be taxed fairly and proportionately and not have to jump through hoops you deem necessary to exploit a maladaptive system to their advantage.



    lol . . . uh, sure. 😀

  12. All those Disney characters bleed together after awhile.

    I presume it was “blend together,” right Gene H?

    The ones who bleed together are the Grimm characters. :mrgreen:

  13. Gene H:

    “Except for the disproportionate tax burden placed on the middle class created by inequitable tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations.”

    Every person in America who has a job ought to have a small business on the side such as Amway. Use the tax laws to your benefit.

    If they get no other benefit than writing off their phone and internet that is worth around $500-1,000 per year depending on how many phones they have.

  14. Ohio Secretary Of State Removes Democratic Members Of Election Board For Supporting Weekend Voting
    By Judd Legum on Aug 18, 2012

    In a dramatic move, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted immediately suspended two Democrats on a county election board after they voted to allow weekend voting.

    Earlier, Husted issued a directive canceling weekend voting statewide. In 2008, Ohio offered early voting on the weekends and thousands of voters cast their ballot during that time.

    Husted issued an ultimatum to Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr., members of the Montgomery County Eleciton Board, to withdraw their resolution to maintain weekend hours or face suspension. The Dayton Daily News has more:

    But in their afternoon meeting, Lieberman, an attorney and former county Democratic Party chair, refused to withdraw his motion, arguing both that his motion did not violate the directive, and that it was best for local voters. He acknowledged that the move could cost him his BOE job.

    “I believe that this is so critical to our freedom in America, and to individual rights to vote, that I am doing what I think is right, and I cannot vote to rescind this motion,” Lieberman said. “In 10 years, I’ve never received a threat that if I don’t do what they want me to do, I could be fired. I find this reprehensible.”

    The Obama campaign has filed a law suit in federal court to restore weekend voting.

  15. Hey are you the same Jim thinks abortions are wrong? If so, then the women who are forced to carry thru a pregnancy who were raped, incest, alone, too young to get a decent job, or not educated enough to get a good job (or can;t in this economy) should also not be able to get help from the government to feed themselves/the baby, be able to go to school to better themselves to be able to do more for the baby, make sure she.the baby are healthy (and people like you who do not like medicaid had better hope that you dont need the ER for a semi emergency and have to wait hours while those without insurance are taken care of or that they do not have TB or other contagious disease but no access to medical care and instead go without help and spread the disease to you and others (heck we have a whooping cough epidemic now but the kids who have it who cant afford a doc, if they die now its okay, because they are already born.

    If youre not that Jim, typical repub, I got mine, I dont give a )*&^%$*&(_ about you

  16. Gene H.

    Hog Wash! Currently over 47% of Americans pay no income tax at all. Deductions are necessary. If I am self-employed and run a lawn cutting business, I need to be able to deduct my gasoline, equipment, etc. so I can show accurately what I earned. I have no sympathy for people who work for others and have no deductions. That was their choice in a free-market economy. Besides, I am right. For years government has taken from the rich and given it to the poor (welfare, pell-grants, medicaid, etc).

  17. Elaine, My nephew just completed 5th grade. In conversation he indicated that he really didn’t do well in a couple of classes and was positively inclined for some summer tutoring. He mentioned social studies and math. Well, he can’t write either. His first “essay” was one or two sentences, all block letters, no cursive. He’s improved with the concentrated effort on how to plan an essay and then write it. We’ve got more work to do but he’s now got an aunt who’s going to be checking his school work next term and giving him an occasional extra assignment.

  18. Jim,
    The facts are against you. Gene is right. The tax code is rigged in favor of the wealthy and has been for years.

  19. “There is no taking from the middle to give to the rich.”

    Except for the disproportionate tax burden placed on the middle class created by inequitable tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations.

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