A Pennsylvania judge ruled Friday that the state cannot enforce its Voter ID law during the 2013 election, citing an ongoing legal battle.
The state also cannot require local elections officials to verbally tell voters at the polls that photo IDs could be required in future elections, but officials can distribute written material about the law, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said.
McGinley’s ruling marked the third consecutive election in which enforcement of the law has been blocked by court order.
The constitutionality of the law is being challenged and was the subject of a 12-day trial before McGinley that ended earlier this month.
Lawyers for the state have said the enforcement issue should be considered one election at a time — as has been the practice since the court’s first order was issued just weeks before the 2012 presidential election. Enforcement also was blocked in the May primary.
But the plaintiffs also objected to any provision allowing the state to require local election officials to ask, but not require, voters to show photo IDs and to hand out information about the law to those who did not show identification.
The voter ID law would be one of the strictest in the nation, but it has never been implemented.
After legal jousting that reached the state Supreme Court, a judge blocked enforcement in last year’s presidential election and again in this year’s municipal and judicial primary because of lingering concern that it could disenfranchise voters who lacked a valid photo ID.
The 2012 law was approved without any Democratic votes by the Legislature’s Republican majority and signed by GOP Gov. Tom Corbett amid a bitterly contested White House race in which Democratic President Barack Obama ultimately carried Pennsylvania.
Critics derided the law as a cynical GOP effort to discourage voting by young adults, minorities, the elderly, poor and disabled from going to the polls. Republicans said most Pennsylvanians have driver’s licenses to use as photo ID and claimed that the law would discourage voter fraud.
Pennsylvania is one of a few key states when it comes to new Voter ID laws. The Justice Department is looking at challenging similar new laws in Texas and North Carolina.