Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Trial Over Pennsylvania Voter ID Law to Begin Wednesday

ElectionsJustice SystemMike TurzaiRepublican PartyAmerican Civil Liberties Union

The case over Pennsylvania's controversial new voter ID law heads to Commonwealth Court Wednesday morning for a trial that could last five to seven days. 

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit this spring on behalf of several voters who say due to various circumstance stye are unable to get an acceptable ID and will be unable to vote in November.

"I'm gonna miss this one though because I don't have any ID," said Viviette Applewhite, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The law requires voters to show a photo ID, which could include a driver's license, a student ID with an expiration date, or a military ID to name a few examples.

At the time the law was passed, Republicans said it was a necessary measure to prevent in-person voter fraud and ensure fairness in elections.

"This is about making sure that every voting-age citizen if the State of Pennsylvania has an opportunity to cast his or her vote," said Rep. Mike Turzai, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Concerns arose among people who do not have an acceptable form of photo ID and do not have the necessary documents, such as a birth certificate, to obtain one.

No Democrats supported the measure, calling it an election-year tactic to suppress the vote among minorities and other groups.

"We hope you have more than these phantom claims of voter fraud to put down because our clients are upset," said Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

In court documents filed ahead of Wednesday's trial, the Commonwealth acknowledges it is not investigating any claims of in-person voter fraud.

Turzai made national news last month over the issue. While speaking to a group of Republicans he said, "Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor (Mitt) Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

According to, Turzai's spokesman Steve Miskin said after the event, “Rep. Turzai was speaking at a partisan, political event. He was simply referencing, for the first time in a long while, the Republican Presidential candidate will be on a more even keel thanks to Voter ID…Anyone looking further into it has their own agenda.” 

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele said she's confident the law will stand and will not disenfranchise voters. In an interview with Fox43 Tuesday, she discussed the new form of photo ID her office is offering. People can obtain that ID by giving their first and last names, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number. It will be available starting at the end of August.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun