In a blow to voting rights advocates, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson upheld the state’s restrictive voter ID law, which could disenfranchise as many as 750,000 citizens in the state.
Though voter ID proponents were unable to cite even a single case of voter impersonation that would justify the ID requirement, Simpson “didn’t rule on the full merits of the case,” instead limiting his scope to whether it was a proper exercise of the legislature’s authority, according to the AP. They continue:
The original rationale in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature for the law — to prevent election fraud — played little role in the case before Simpson since the state’s lawyers acknowledged that they are “not aware of any incidents of in person voter fraud.” Instead, they insisted that lawmakers properly exercised their latitude to make election-related laws when they chose to require voters to show widely available forms of photo identification.
Voting rights advocates plan to appeal the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which will likely issue its own ruling before the November election. There is currently an even 3-3 split between Democrats and Republicans on the Court; the 7th Justice, Republican Joan Orie Melvin, is under suspension because of an unrelated corruption scandal.
Since Simpson ruled to uphold the law, Democrats will need one crossover vote to win a majority and strike down the law. Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a moderate Republican from Philadelphia, is most likely to side with the Democrats.
The federal Justice Department is also looking into whether Pennsylvania’s voter ID complies with federal law.