On Tuesday, just five weeks before Election Day, a Commonwealth Court judge halted enforcement of Pennsylvania's strict new voting ID law from going into effect in the pivotal swing state until after this year's presidential election. The law, enacted in March, requires that every person have a Department of Transportation (PennDOT) photo ID in order to vote in Pennsylvania. However, under the law, the state of Pennsylvania is supposed to provide alternative voter ID cards free of charge. In September, the State's Supreme Court returned the case to the lower Commonwealth Court to assess the extent that approved voter ID's are readily available to eligible voters.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ordered the state not to enforce the law for the November 6 election, stating "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" to ID cards. The higher court ordered Simpson to block the law if eligible voters would be kept from voting as a result of it, or if he found that the state could not comply with its commitment to provide valid photo IDs to eligible voters within the time available before election day- he did not question the constitutionality of the law. Simpson's decision will allow the law to go into effect in the future. An appeal of the decision is still possible.
Although the future of the law remains contested, the judge's decision to block the law for the November 6 election is a win for Democrats, who have been fighting Republican-passed voter ID laws in many states this year. According to the Associated Press, "Pennsylvania's new law, among the toughest in the nation, is a signature accomplishment of Republicans in control of Pennsylvania state government who say they fear election fraud. But it is an emotional target for Democrats who call it a Jim Crow-style scheme to make it harder for their party's traditional voters, including young adults and minorities, who might not carry the right kind of ID or know about the law."
A study released in September by the Black Youth Project indicated that one million young minority voters were at risk of being affected by new voter suppression laws enacted in 17 states for the November 6 election.
Media Resources: NBC Politics 10/2/12; Huffington Post 10/2/12; MSNBC 10/2/12; NPR 10/2/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .