Tom Mihalek / REUTERS
Barring a reversal, Pennsylvania voters won’t be required to produce a photo ID at the polls next month, thanks to a judge’s ruling this morning. But voting-rights groups say they’re concerned the state may continue with a campaign telling voters they do need ID, potentially causing confusion and keeping some voters from the polls.
“That is the big question: Will the state continue to run advertising saying that people need ID?” Witold Walczak, a lawyer with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told Lean Forward. “Because that’s false.”
Judge Robert Simpson ruled Tuesday morning that the state must continue with its “soft rollout” of the voter ID law. That means poll workers can ask voters for ID, but can’t turn them away, or force them to cast provisional ballots, for not producing one.
But the ruling did not address the state’s $5 million advertising campaign telling voters that they’ll need an ID to vote. One TV ad that last month was running across the state says: “To vote in Pennsylvania on Election Day, you need an acceptable photo ID with a valid expiration date,” and tells voters to “show it.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Carol Aichele said the ad campaign would go on. “We will continue our education and outreach efforts, as directed by the judge in his order, to let Pennsylvanians know the voter ID law is still on track to be fully implemented for future elections, and we urge all registered voters to make sure they have acceptable ID," said Aichele.
Asked for clarification, Aichele spokesman Matthew Keeler told Lean Forward, via email: "We are looking into the media campaign to transition and update information and ads to continue to educate voters and prepare for election day."
And Walczak told Lean Forward he's feeling "cautiously optimistic" after a Tuesday afternoon conversation with state lawyers.
Still, supporters of the law are claiming that changing the campaign would be impractical. “It’s already in the works,” said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for Rep. Mike Turzai, a Republican, told Lean Forward. “How do you just pull it back?”
But voting-rights advocates say if the state doesn’t do so, the result could be widespread confusion, leading some voters to stay away from then polls because they wrongly believe they need ID.
"There is a concern on our side about the possibility of misinformation going out," David Gersch, a lawyer for civil-rights groups challenging the law, told reporters on a conference call. If there’s confusion about whether an ID is needed, he added, “folks may just stay home.”
Gersch and other voting-rights lawyers on the case said they might pursue further legal action if the state won’t assure them it’ll change the ad campaign, though they’re hopeful that won’t be necessary.
“We’d like to think that at the end of the day, they’re not going to be interested in having ads and educational materials out there that are incorrect,” Gersch said.
In one sign that the state is tweaking its campaign, before Tuesday's ruling the Pennsylvania elections website read: “Voters are required to show an acceptable photo ID before casting their ballot." It now says:"Voters will be asked, but not required, to show an acceptable photo ID on Election Day."
Will you, or will someone you know, be affected by voter ID laws this November? Email us at LeanForwardEditors@msnbc.com with your story.