A Commonwealth court judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that a state law requiring voters to produce a photo ID is legal and can be in effect for November's presidential election. President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, opposed the controversial law and have stated they are committed to fighting the law in multiple states.
Although opponents of the law expect to file an appeal in the coming days, Judge Robert Simpson refused to grant an injunction to prohibit the law from taking effect.
"We're not done, it's not over," ACLU lawyer Witold J. Walczak told reporters. "It's why they make appeals courts."
According to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll released Wednesday, unlikely voters overwhelmingly favor photo ID verification for voting. Three out of four (75 percent) answered that U.S. citizens should be required to show photo identification before voting.
Pennsylvania is one of several states that in the last two years have passed similar laws. However, Democrats argue such statutes are a throw-back to past decades and "Jim Crow" laws when blacks were refused the right to vote or intimidated into not showing up at the polls.
One of the main reasons for passing voter ID laws is the age-old issue of voter fraud – meaning is the person whose vote is recorded actually the same person who cast the vote?
In his opening arguments back in July, plaintiffs' attorney David Gersh argued that voter fraud is neither a paramount issue nor the real reason why the Pennsylvania law was passed.
"The integrity of the electoral process is not enhanced by turning people away from the polls," said Gersch, who is representing 10 individuals and groups that include the NAACP, and League of Women Voters. "Voting is not a privilege. It is a right."
One of the plaintiffs, 93-year-old Vivian Applewhite, says obtaining the required ID may prove to be difficult. The reason – she has been married several times and she thinks it may be difficult proving her name since she cannot provide documentation such as a marriage license or birth certificate. However, there is no evidence her request has been denied by state officials.
Yet what Democrats on the national level are concerned about is losing Pennsylvania to Romney in November. Some analysts are predicting that if the law remains intact that up to 400,000 black voters may not show up at the polls, thus creating an almost impossible way for Obama to win the state.
Simpson said in his 70-page opinion that plaintiffs did a good job of "putting a face" to citizens who may be somewhat burdened by the law but also said his decision could not be based on sympathy but on his confidence that state officials would carry out the law in a "non-partisan, even-handed manner."
Addressing the concern that the new law may confuse voters, Simpson wrote that stopping the law would most likely create even more confusion among voters in weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
"This is because the process of implementation in general, and of public outreach and education in particular, is much harder to start, or restart, than it is to stop," he wrote.
In addition to legal issues, the passage of the law also raised political issues when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed the law after every Democrat in the state legislature voted "no" on the bill's final passage.
Holder and the Department of Justice are also looking into the legality of the ruling, making sure the law complies with federal election law.
Meanwhile, state officials are assuring federal officials and voters that processes will be in place for anyone who needs an ID to easily obtain one at no charge.