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Case Name Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania VR-PA-0115
Docket / Court 330 M.D. 2012 ( State Court )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Advancement Project
Public Interest Law Center (PILCOP)
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Right to travel
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Election administration
Voter id
Voter qualifications
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Plaintiff Description Individual plaintiffs said that they lacked an acceptable form of photo ID and will thus be disenfranchised or severely burdened by the requirements of Pennsylvania's Act 18 in the next election. Organizational plaintiffs said that they may have members whose right to vote is impermissibly burdened by the act. They also say that they have had to spend significant resources educating their members about the new law.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Advancement Project
Public Interest Law Center (PILCOP)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2012
Case Closing Year 2014
Case Ongoing No
330 MD 2012 (State Trial Court)
VR-PA-0115-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/2014
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Petition for Review Addressed to the Court's Original Jurisdiction
VR-PA-0115-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2012
Source: ACLU
Memorandum Opinion (2012 WL 3332376)
VR-PA-0115-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/15/2012
Source: State Court Website
Order (54 A.3d 1)
VR-PA-0115-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/18/2012
Source: State Court Website
Dissenting Statement (54 A.3d 1)
VR-PA-0115-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/18/2012
Source: State Court Website
Dissenting Statement (54 A.3d 1)
VR-PA-0115-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/18/2012
Source: State Court Website
Supplemental Determination on Application for Preliminary Injunction (2012 WL 4497211)
VR-PA-0115-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/02/2012
Source: State Court Website
Determination on Renewed Application for Preliminary Injunction
VR-PA-0115-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/16/2013
Source: ACLU
Determination on Declaratory Relief and Permanent Injunction (2014 WL 184988)
VR-PA-0115-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/17/2014
Source: ACLU
Judges McCaffery, Seamus P. (State Supreme Court)
McGinley, Bernard L. (State Appellate Court)
VR-PA-0115-0008 | VR-PA-0115-0009 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Simpson, Robert (State Appellate Court)
VR-PA-0115-0001 | VR-PA-0115-0006 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Todd, Debra McCloskey (State Supreme Court)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bernstein, Daniel (New York)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Clarke, Jennifer R. (Pennsylvania)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Dumouchel, Kate (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Freedman, John A. (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Gersch, David P. (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Hewett, Dawn Yamane (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Korkor, Bassel C. (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Moore, Whitney (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Patterson, Donna (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Rubin, Michael (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Schneider, Marian K. (District of Columbia)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania)
VR-PA-0115-0007 | VR-PA-0115-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Cawley, Patrick S. (Pennsylvania)
Hickok, Alicia D. (Pennsylvania)
Knorr, John G. III (Pennsylvania)
Koons, Calvin R. (Pennsylvania)
Putnam, Alfred W. Jr. (Pennsylvania)

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