In March 2012, the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 18, also known as the Pennsylvania Voter ID Law. The law required presentation of a photo identification card for most registered voters to cast a ballot. It also stated that the primary form of identification required was a Department of Transportation (PennDOT) driver's license or the non-driver equivalent. It provided that these identification cards would be provided "at no cost" if the applicant declared under oath that he or she lacked identification and needed it for voting purposes.
On May 1, 2012, a group of registered voters and advocacy organizations filed suit in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the governor, and the Commonwealth's secretary, alleging that the Voter ID Law violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. Specifically, the petitioners claimed that the Voter ID Law severely burdened the right of many qualified voters to vote, violating the due process, equal protection, and voter qualification provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Petitioners sought declaratory and injunctive relief.
On August 15, 2012, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (Judge Robert Simpson) denied the preliminary injunction. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a per curium decision vacating the denial of the preliminary injunction. The court found that the Commonwealth Court made a predicative judgment that remedial efforts to compensate for the strain of obtaining PennDOT identification cards, such as efforts to educate the voting public, would be sufficient to forestall the possibility of voter disenfranchisement. Finding such a predicative judgment insufficient, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court remanded the case. It directed the trial court to reassess the need for a preliminary injunction, and in particular, to examine the "actual availability of the alternative identification cards."
On October 2, 2012, the Commonwealth Court (Judge Simpson) issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Commonwealth from requiring identification for the provisional ballot part of the in-person voting process in the November 2012 general election. The trial court found that the Commonwealth had failed to assuage doubts about implementation of the law, which was likely to disenfranchise some voters. The preliminary injunction did not preclude the Commonwealth from engaging in other transition procedures, such as providing additional education to those not showing proof of identification for in-person voting. Trial on the permanent injunction was scheduled for July 2013.
On October 19, 2012, the petitioners filed a petition for supplemental injunction to enforce the court's October 2 order. Petitioners sought to enjoin respondents from disseminating false information about the need for photo ID on Election Day and to require respondents to remediate misinformation on the matter. On November 1, 2012, the court (Judge Simpson) denied the motion.
Because the trial on the permanent injunction could not be held prior to primary elections in May 2013, the parties agreed to extend the preliminary injunction. In August 2013, the court (Judge Bernard McGinley) again extended the preliminary injunction through the November 2013 elections. On January 17, 2014, the court (Judge McGinley) granted petitioner's request for permanent injunctive and declaratory relief, finding that the Voter ID Law threatened to disenfranchise "hundreds of thousands" of registered voters, in spite of the Commonwealth's efforts to educate voters and provide compliant IDs. Petitioners' request for attorney's fees was denied.
Respondents' application for argument before an en banc panel was subsequently denied. On May 8, 2014, Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett announced that the Commonwealth would not appeal.Priyah Kaul - 02/09/2015