By Cherri Gregg
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge has ruled that the state’s controversial new voter ID law will stand, but voters without a valid picture ID card will still be able to cast their vote and have it counted this November.
Judge Robert Simpson has effectively decided to postpone part of the law. Following his ruling, voters will still be asked for a valid voter ID at the poll. But if they don’t have it, they will still be able to cast their vote in the usual manner.
VIEW: The Full Ruling
The judge suspended the portion of the law that would have required voters without valid ID to cast what is called a “provisional” ballot, which would not be counted unless the voter could produce a valid photo ID within six days after the election.
Judge Simpson says he viewed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent directive (see related story) as ordering that he sever the illegal portion of the law concerning the provisional ballots.
In his 16-page ruling, the judge also said that the Department of the Commonwealth can continue to educate voters on the ID requirement and encourage voters to obtain ID. He says voters must be able to get the “Department of State” ID as an ID of first resort for voting — that is, they don’t have to first be rejected for a Penndot driver’s license or non-driver ID.
Gov. Tom Corbett and the Secretary of the Commonwealth, who oversees Pennsylvania elections, indicated this afternoon that the state would not appeal the Commonwealth Court ruling, but said no official decision has been made.
In a statement, the governor said he believes the state has made it possible for every voter to get photo ID by Election Day, and he says the state will continue those efforts for future elections.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth issued a similar statement. Carol Aichele said the state will use the same procedure next month that it used in the primary: voters will be asked for ID but will be able to vote even if they don’t have it.
So, this November’s election will look very much like this past April’s primary, in which a “soft rollout” of the new law took place (related story). Voters were asked for ID by poll officials, but those without it could still vote.
The order leaves open the likelihood that the voter ID law will be in effect at future elections, although an appeal of the broader law is still proceeding.
Today’s ruling comes just five weeks before the election (related story). Democrats and groups including the AARP and NAACP mounted a furious opposition to a law that Republicans say is necessary to prevent election fraud (another related story).
Critics have accused Republicans of using old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics to steal the White House and have highlighted stories of otherwise qualified registered voters struggling to get a state photo ID (more related stories).
The law was already a partisan lightning rod when a top Republican lawmaker boasted that it would allow GOP nominee Mitt Romney to beat President Obama in Pennsylvania (see related story).