Pennsylvania, Mississippi Voter Suppression Laws Struck Down
Voters in Pennsylvania will not have to show an ID card in order to cast a valid ballot this year, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, a voter ID law in Mississippi was held for review by federal officials until after the election in order to determine if it will have discriminatory effects.
The Pennsylvania ID law had originally been upheld by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr., but the state Supreme Court overturned his decision and dictated that he rethink his position and only allow the law if officials could be sure that no one would be disenfranchised in November.
The American Civil Liberties Union had brought a number of plaintiffs in a lawsuit who could not obtain government-issued ID under any circumstances and therefore would not be able to cast a ballot in this fall’s presidential election under the law.
Given a re-do, Simpson let most of the law stay in place but issued a narrow injunction mandating that for this particular election, voters will still be allowed to fill out a normal ballot even if they don’t bring identification.
Mississippi is one of a number of southern states that require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice in order to make changes to voting procedures, because of a history of trying to disenfranchise black and minority voters. While the DOJ did not officially block the Mississippi law, it said it needed more time and information to make its decision so a final ruling would have to wait until after November.
The Pennsylvania and Mississippi decisions are the latest in a string of defeats for voter suppression measures enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures around the country.
“Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened,” Lawrence D. Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, told the New York Times. “It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws.”
- Wisconsin’s voter ID law was tossed by a judge in March as an unconstitutional obstacle to voting.
- A measure in Florida that attempted to cripple voter registration drives by forcing them to turn in registration forms within 48 hours after being completed, among other requirements, was squashed by a judge in August.
- Ohio tried to limit early voting, particularly on the Sunday before the election in order to keep African American church-goers away from the polls. No good, said a judge. Early voting was restored.
- In Texas, an ID law was blocked by federal officials in August because it was found to have disparate effect on the ability of blacks and Latinos to vote. There is a chance the U.S. Supreme Court could issue a ruling on the Texas law before November.
- Residents of South Carolina are still waiting to hear if they will be allowed to vote without presenting a photo ID. The Justice Department blocked an ID law in June but the state is still awaiting a judge’s final ruling of their appeal.
The slew of laws that make it harder to vote were ostensibly passed to combat voter fraud, a problem which a five-year Bush-era Justice Department investigation as well as numerous follow-up studies have found effectively does not exist.