Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson ruled the law would remain mostly intact for the Nov. 6 presidential election, but ordered an injunction concerning the law's provisional ballot requirements, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
While noting state officials developed a remedy so voters can have "liberal access" to a photo ID, Simpson said he had three problems with testimony on the proposed changes.
"First and foremost, the evidence is similar in kind to the prospective 'assurances of government officials' testimony which the Supreme Court found an unsatisfactory basis for a 'predictive judgment,'" Simpson said in his 18-page opinion. "Second, the proposed changes are to occur about five weeks before the general election, and I question whether sufficient time now remains to attain the goal of liberal access. Third, the proposed changes are accompanied by candid admissions by government officials that any new deployment will reveal unforeseen problems which impede implementation."
"For these reasons, I cannot conclude the proposed changes cure the deficiency in liberal access identified by the [state] Supreme Court," he said.
The issue is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court, the Inquirer said.
The law now states that voters who don't bring proper photo ID to their polling places on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot and then have six days to bring in the required photo ID for their votes to count.
During last week's hearing in Harrisburg, Simpson decided the law does not disenfranchise voters because it requires election workers to ask for photo identification. The risk of being disenfranchised comes when a voter casts a provisional ballot but then cannot obtain the necessary identification in the allotted time.
"I will not restrain election officials from asking for photo ID at the polls," Simpson said, "rather, I will enjoin enforcement of those parts of [the law] which directly result in disenfranchisement."
Because of this, Simpson determined that for the Nov. 6 election only, voters without proper photo ID could vote, and have their ballots count, but wouldn't have to produce appropriate identification within six days, the Inquirer said.
In a 4-2 decision last month, the state Supreme Court returned the issue to the lower court, saying if the lower court holds the law is being implemented in such as way as to ensure all voters have access to the required photo ID, the law can stand; but if not, the law would be overturned. The law was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law in March by GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.