Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Has Another Day in Court

Just a month before the presidential election last year, a lawsuit brought by 94-year-old Vivienne Applewhite temporarily blocked the key component of a Pennsylvania law requiring strict photographic identification to vote. Now the challenge to the constitutionality of the law is back in state court for a more permanent ruling.


Thirty-seven states have laws requiring registered voters to show ID when they arrive at the polls. Some of these - like the strict laws requiring photo ID cards in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee - are in effect; others, like Pennsylvania's law, are undergoing legal challenges.

Does it make sense to require voters to identify themselves to prevent fraud at the polls? According to the proponents of the Pennsylvania law, which requires voters to show one of several forms of photo ID at the polls, fraud is a serious enough risk to justify the burden.

But Applewhite, represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other advocacy groups, argues that the state law deprives citizens of their fundamental right to vote guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. (AARP and other advocacy groups for older Americans joined the legal challenge in a friend of the court brief.) Requiring ID at the polls is an unworkable requirement, she argues, because the state hasn't taken steps - such as opening more driver's licensing centers - to ensure that voters without IDs can and will obtain them.

What's more, those without IDs - a driver's license, a passport - are statistically more likely to be older, poor or members of a minority group.

As the trial continues this week, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a central part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the state of Pennsylvania will present evidence in support of the voter ID law. Interested in reading the testimony of trial witnesses? Check out the ACLU website, where the transcripts are posted daily.


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