The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision today in Applewhite v. Pennsylvania, vacating the order of the Commonwealth Court which refused to issue an injunction to the state’s new voter identification law, and remanded the case back to the Commonwealth Court.
“The Supreme Court had all of the evidence it needed to issue an injunction on this law that will disenfranchise thousands or more voters on election day, but decided to delay and punt the case back to the lower court,” said Glenn Magpantay, Director of the Democracy Program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). “The inability of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to issue a ruling based on the mountain of evidence proving that this law will in fact disenfranchise numerous eligible voters, including many Asian American voters, will have far reaching implications on election day.”
AALDEF and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA) of Pennsylvania filed an amicus brief in Applewhite in the PA Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the PA ID requirement for disenfranchising Asian Americans and preventing racial and language minorities from exercising their right to vote.
Following today’s ruling, voters are still required to follow the voter ID law as the litigation continues and will not have certainty on what the final voting requirements will be right up until election day. Although the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is issuing free photo IDs, the application form was made available only in English, making it difficult for Chinese-, Korean-, Vietnamese- and Khmer-speaking voters to obtain acceptable IDs. According to AALDEF’s 2008 exit polls, only 21% of Asian American voters in PA identified English as their native language, and 42% reported limited English proficiency. In addition, after the voter ID law was enacted, Asian-language voter registration forms were taken down from the Pennsylvania Department of State’s elections website. These voters would be unduly burdened by this voter ID law and could potentially have their right to vote denied, even though they are duly registered, eligible voters.
“Pennsylvania’s efforts to educate Asian Americans about the voter ID law’s requirements have not been adequate, and there is a serious risk that eligible Asian American voters will not be able to vote in November,” said Magpantay.
The lower court has until October 2 to issue a decision in Applewhite and could still issue an injunction preventing the voter ID law from taking effect before the November 6 Presidential election. In the meantime, however, many Asian Americans and other eligible voters will still be seeking alternate IDs in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote on election day.
Download the court’s decisions:
PA Supreme Court Decision
Dissenting Opinion-J. McCaffery
Dissenting Opinion-J. Todd