Department of State Instructions on Voter ID

Email from the Pennsylvania Department of State to Pennsylvania Election Officials on 8/16/2013

To All County Election Contacts,

A Commonwealth Court judge on August 16 issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order re: the Photo ID provisions of Act 2012-18.  Following are the court’s directions:

  • With the consent of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, a new preliminary injunction was issued that suspends the requirements of Act 18 that all electors must present Photo ID at the polls as a condition of casting a regular ballot.
  • Poll workers may continue (as Act 18 requires) to ask every elector to present Photo ID.  However, if the elector does not have Photo ID, he or she must be allowed to cast a regular ballot if the district election board determines that the elector is qualified and entitled to vote in that election.  Note, however, that the Voter ID requirements for first-time voters that pre-date Act 18 continue in full force and effect – as they always have.
  • If an elector is not able to present acceptable photo ID, poll workers will be required (as in every election held since 2012) to provide to the elector written information prescribed by the Department of State that briefly describes the Photo ID requirements of Act 18.  A revised handout will be provided as soon as possible.
  • However, unlike past elections, poll workers will NOT be permitted (until further order of court) to verbally inform the elector that he or she will be required to comply with the Photo ID requirement when voting in future elections.  Since the legal status of the Photo ID law remains the subject of litigation, the court decided that it would be potentially misleading to tell voters that the Photo ID will be required in future elections since Commonwealth Court may decide ultimately to enjoin the Photo ID requirement permanently.  How the court will rule finally is not known.

Commonwealth Court said that this injunction order will remain in effect until Commonwealth Court has finally decided the pending constitutional challenge to the Photo ID requirements of Act 18.  It cannot be predicted with any reliability when Commonwealth Court will determine finally whether the Photo ID provisions of Act 18 may be fully implemented.  Though the trial has concluded, the trial judge still must issue his ruling, and then there is an opportunity for post-trial proceedings in Commonwealth Court before that court issues a final ruling.


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